Belfast Telegraph

Changes to same-sex marriage laws in Northern Ireland one step closer

Amendment: Conor McGinn
Amendment: Conor McGinn
Allan Preston

By Allan Preston

Parliament can make same-sex marriage legal in Northern Ireland within months if Stormont isn't restored, a Labour MP has said.

Conor McGinn is to add an amendment to government legislation before the Commons next week, with backing from a cross party group of MPs.

If successful, Mr McGinn says the Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley would be obliged to introduce the measure within three months of the bill becoming law.

Northern Ireland remains the only part of the UK and Ireland where same-sex marriage remains illegal.

Previous attempts to change the law in Stormont have been blocked by the DUP using the petition of concern.

Mrs Bradley has said the matter should only be decided once Stormont has been restored - a sentiment echoed on Tuesday by Tory leadership candidates Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt.

In an attempt to bypass this, Mr McGinn's amendment will be attached to a bill on budgetary matters.

The change would be achieved by giving the option for a restored Stormont to approve or repeal the measure.

Supporters include Conservative MPs Justine Greening and Nick Herbert, Caroline Lucas from the Green Party and Labour's Owen Smith.

Speaking to the Guardian, Mr McGinn, who is originally from Co Armagh, said people in Northern Ireland were running out of patience over the matter.

"There is currently no devolved Assembly. There has been no executive in place since January 2017. How much longer are LGBT people in Northern Ireland supposed to wait?

"The government can't continue to invoke devolution or negotiations to re-establish Stormont in perpetuity. So what we've said is, we'll give you three months to try and resolve this - if you can't, Westminster will do what it arguably already should have done."

Patrick Corrigan, Northern Ireland director of Amnesty International, said he expected it would secure "strong support" in the Commons.

"If devolved government returns within three months, then we will resume our campaign at Stormont," he said.

"Meantime, Westminster should move to end this injustice. If the Assembly is restored at some point in the future, then members there can legislate as they see fit, but with a large majority of MLAs in favour of equal marriage, we know that there will be little appetite to see this measure overturned."

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