Belfast Telegraph

MPs vote to pave the way for same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland

The move could see Westminster legislate for same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland
The move could see Westminster legislate for same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland

MPs have voted to pave the way for the legalisation of same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland.

Armagh-born Labour MP Conor McGinn put forward the proposal, which states that if Stormont is not restored by October 21, then Westminster will legislate for equal marriage.

It was passed with 383 MPs voting in favour and 73 against.

The proposal was in the form of an amendment to the Northern Ireland Executive Formation Bill, which seeks to delay Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley's obligation to call a fresh assembly election until October.

A caveat to the amendment states that a future assembly could overturn or amend the law.

Speaking following the vote, Conor McGinn described the amendment's passing as "a fantastic victory".

"Having been let down so many times before, LGBT people in Northern Ireland can now look forward to enjoying the same rights as everyone else in the rest of the UK and on the island of Ireland," he said in a statement posted to Twitter.

Mr McGinn said he hopes the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly will be restored and working by October 21 so that they can introduce equal marriage.

"But if Stormont still isn't functioning by then, the LGBT community in Northern Ireland now know that Westminster will act to ensure equality and respect for all citizens, and finally give them the right to marry the person they love," said Mr McGinn.

DUP Westminster leader Nigel Dodds said proposals for the Commons to introduce equal marriage in Northern Ireland "drives a coach and horses through the principle of devolution".

Independent unionist MP (North Down) Lady Sylvia Hermon said her constituents were concerned about the damage the vote could have on the devolution settlement.

She added: "They are greatly concerned that this amendment might undermine the devolved settlement in Northern Ireland."

Labour MP Stella Creasy said: "I am a passionate defender of women’s rights, I believe powerfully that if women are not able to have equal control over their bodies as men are then we will never have true freedom.

"If we say to women we will force you to continue an unwanted pregnancy, they will always be second class citizens to male counterparts.

"I ask the House, how much longer are the women of Northern Ireland expected to wait? How much more are they expected to suffer until we speak up for the best of what this place does as human rights defenders, not human rights deniers?"

Previous attempts to legislate for equal marriage through Stormont have been blocked by the DUP using the petition of concern.

Speaking following Tuesday's vote, John O'Doherty, director of the Rainbow Project and member of the Love Equality campaign, said he was glad MPs in the Commons have "seen sense" and moved forward with the legislation.

“All love is equal and we are proud to celebrate this achievement with our community, friends, colleagues and allies from across these islands," her said.

"Our future got a little brighter today and we hope that LGBT people across Northern Ireland will wake up tomorrow feeling more hopeful for the future we all want to see."

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood described the vote as a "watershed moment" for Northern Ireland.

“It is a matter of profound regret for me as an MLA and as a Party Leader that we haven’t yet been able to deliver marriage equality in an inclusive, powersharing Executive.

"I am delighted, however, that we now have an equality backstop that will ensure the rights of LGBT+ people are delivered either here or at Westminster.

Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann said that the absence of a functioning Executive and Assembly can no longer hold back decision making. 

“Westminster has now shown that it can and will legislate for Northern Ireland, so the Secretary of State should begin taking the urgent decisions needed on behalf of Northern Ireland," he said. 

“As a democratic party we must accept and respect the democratic right of the United Kingdom’s Parliament to legislate on behalf of the people of Northern Ireland during the prolonged absence of devolved institutions.”

Sara Canning, the partner of murder journalist Lyra McKee, tweeted: "Wishing more than anything that I could speak to Lyra right now, she would be beyond excited, and her exuberance was one of my favourite things to see. This would be even more of a dream come true if I could celebrate with my love."

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