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From the Belfast Telegraph:
Viewpoint: Gay rights create fresh challenges
30 November 2005
In Lisburn, Alliance chairman Trevor Lunn has resigned after finding himself at odds with the party policy on so-called "gay weddings". And in Rome, the Catholic Church has accepted that men with "transitory" homosexual tendencies can be ordained, provided they have overcome their inclinations for three years.
Around the world, times are changing and people are having to come to terms with new realities. In Northern Ireland, legislation which is due to be enacted next week means that civil partnerships can legally be registered at city and town halls.
Although this means that such relationships will be given legal recognition for the first time, the legislation stops short of describing such unions as marriages. But it will afford gay couples the same legal rights as heterosexual married couples.
While the first such ceremony - due to take place at Belfast City Hall on December 19 - will undoubtedly attract the glare of publicity, any protests will be in vain. The law has been changed, and in time such ceremonies will become routine.
The Vatican, meanwhile, is still wrestling with the complex issue of gay priests. Since 1961 there has been a bar on homosexuals becoming priests, but it seems that this rule has not been rigorously enforced.
Priests with gay leanings can, of course, still be effective pastors. The challenge for the Catholic church - as for other churches - is to strive for a balance between the opposing and sincerely held views of its liberal and conservative wings.
As a result, the Vatican's document leaves many grey areas, particularly in that it fails to define what is meant by a "deep-seated" tendency.
The more fundamental issue confronting the Catholic Church, though, is the increasingly unsustainable rule that priests should be celibate. Until that is changed, the Vatican can expect to be dogged by falling numbers of vocations.
The vociferous gay rights movement will be impatient that progress is not being made faster, both on homosexual priests and full marriage ceremonies. But campaigners should allow time for traditional views to be tempered.
While there is regrettably still evidence of homophobia, the days when gay relationships had to be conducted in secret are over. Progress is being made but to force the pace at this stage would be counter-productive. Society needs to accept that the best way forward is to live and let live a little more.