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Same-sex marriage motion defeated

Published 02/10/2012

Green Party leader Steven Agnew
Green Party leader Steven Agnew

A call for same-sex couples to be given the right to marry in Northern Ireland has been defeated in the Stormont Assembly.

The vast majority of unionist members voted against the motion, which was jointly tabled by Sinn Fein and the Green Party.

If it had passed, the proposal would not have prompted a change in the law but would have ramped up pressure on the power-sharing administration to examine the issue.

Members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community (LGBT) held a picket outside Parliament Buildings ahead of the debate.

Urging all sides of the House to support the call, the Assembly's sole Green Party member Steven Agnew said same-sex couples were being denied fundamental rights, such as the ability to adopt a child, under the current civil partnership legislation.

He said they also did not have religious equality as they were prevented from having a religious theme at partnership ceremonies.

The motion stressed that religious organisations would still be able to define and observe marriage as they saw fit, but said same-sex couples should be allowed to have their unions recognised as marriage in the eyes of the state.

"I call for all those in the House to support this motion," he said. "And in doing so, support a motion that seeks to create equality in our society, that seeks to enhance religious freedom, that seeks to support the institution of marriage and send out a message to all those in the gay community that the Northern Ireland Assembly believes they should be able to live in safety and freedom from discrimination and is committed to a shared society for all."

The motion also called directly on Stormont Finance Minister Sammy Wilson to introduce legislation to guarantee that couples of any sex or gender identity received equal benefits under the law. Responding to the debate, Mr Wilson made his opposition to same-sex marriage clear. He said there were many other issues the Assembly should be debating, such as those relating to the region's economic problems.

Not all 52 unionists present voted no, with Ulster Unionist members Basil McCrea, Danny Kinahan and Michael Copeland backing the motion.

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