The Northern Ireland Office (NIO) has failed to recognise serious concerns about freedom of expression regarding the introduction of same-sex marriage, the Christian Institute (CI) has warned.
According to Simon Calvert, deputy director for public affairs at the CI, the NIO was warned of possible legal action over the lack of protections for churches and teachers who disagree with same-sex marriage.
As a result, the NIO said it would carry out a consultation, if agreed by an incoming government, but the consultation will be limited to religious same-sex services.
It will not provide the same free speech protections for school children, teachers, employees and charities currently in place in the rest of the UK.
But Mr Calvert warned unless proper protections are put in place, the new law will end up being ushered in without the religious liberty and freedom of speech protections available in Great Britain.
Last July, politicians in Westminster voted to impose same-sex marriage on Northern Ireland from 13 January 2020, with the first services being able to take place on 14 February.
But the speed at which the law is coming in means many people may be at risk of falling foul of the law.
Mr Calvert explained, ‘The government has failed to grasp the scope of what needs to change, and seems unwilling to delay this legislation until accommodation can be made to protect the rights of those who disagree with same-sex marriage.
‘What is needed is a clear guarantee that all the protections in GB will be mirrored in Northern Ireland.
‘The desperate attempt to make same-sex weddings available by Valentine’s Day is putting public relations ahead of free speech’.