North’s same-sex marriage bill introduced at Westminster

Marriage Bill proceeds to first legislative stage in House of Commons

 

A bill to give same-sex couples in Northern Ireland the right to marry passed its first hurdle in the House of Lords on Tuesday, a day before an identical bill will be introduced in the House of Commons.

Peers agreed to allow Robert Hayward’s Marriage (Same Sex Couples) (Northern Ireland) Bill to proceed to a First Reading, the first stage in the legislative process.

In the Commons on Wednesday, South Armagh-born Labour MP Conor McGinn will introduce a parallel bill, which would legalise same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland, allow civil partnerships to be converted into marriages, and for same-sex marriages solemnised elsewhere to be recognised.

Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom where same-sex couples are not allowed to marry; the Northern Ireland Assembly has voted on the issue five times.

After four defeats, marriage equality was approved by 53 votes to 52 in November 2015 but the legislation was blocked by a DUP petition of concern.

A 30,000-strong petition organised by the LGBT campaign group Love Equality will be placed before 10 Downing Street on Wednesday calling for the Government to back a change in legislation in Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland secretary Karen Bradley told Mr McGinn last month that Conservative MPs would have a free vote on his bill but the DUP’s Jeffrey Donaldson predicted this week that the legislation was unlikely to get through all the stages of the parliamentary process.

The DUP argues that any decision on extending marriage equality to Northern Ireland should be left to politicians at Stormont, although the Assembly has been suspended for over a year.

Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran will sponsor Mr McGinn’s bill on Wednesday, along with Conservative MP Nick Herbert and the Green Party’s Caroline Lucas.

“I’d much rather that this decision was taken by local politicians in Belfast, but given that it doesn’t seem the Assembly will be up and running again soon, I believe that Westminster MPs are right to change the law to provide marriage equality for everyone. It is a real honour and a privilege to be sponsoring this legislation. I hope that all parties will now support it and make sure it becomes law as quickly as possible so that everyone, in all parts of the United Kingdom, no matter where they live or who they love, can get married,” Ms Moran said.