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Ban on same sex marriage in N Ireland must go, urges Amnesty International

Published 08/05/2016

Thousands walked through Belfast last June in a rally for gay marriage rights
Thousands walked through Belfast last June in a rally for gay marriage rights

Amnesty International has urged the new Northern Ireland Assembly to overturn the ban on same sex marriage.

The human rights group claims at least 58 of the 108 newly elected MLAs are in favour of gay marriage and wants early legislation to bring the region into line with the rest of the UK and Ireland.

Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty International's Northern Ireland programme director, said: "There is now a clear majority within the Northern Ireland Assembly in favour of marriage equality.

"Based on our figures, even a conservative reading of voting intentions shows that there are now at least 58 MLAs in favour of legislating for equal marriage, with 49 or fewer opposed.

"This is a marked shift in favour of equality and brings the make-up of the Assembly significantly closer to public opinion on this issue."

Same-sex marriage has been rejected five times by members of the devolved administration at Stormont.

Although most Assembly members voted for introducing gay marriage when it was last debated in November 2015, the proposal fell because unionists who opposed the move used a controversial voting mechanism to veto it.

Following the Yes vote in last May's referendum on marriage equality in the Irish Republic, Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK or Ireland where civil marriage is denied to same-sex couples.

Amnesty said its figures were based on approaches to candidates before the election as well as previous voting records and public statements.

Mr Corrigan said: "The last Assembly repeatedly failed to deliver equality for same-sex couples in Northern Ireland.

"The new Assembly must put that right without further delay by passing marriage equality legislation to bring us into line with the rest of the UK and Ireland.

"We call on MLAs from all parties to unite behind a single Marriage Equality Bill in the early stages of the new Assembly term."

Last year, an estimated 20,000 people marched through Belfast city centre to protest against marriage inequality.

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