Northern Ireland born MP Conor McGinn and equal marriage campaigners are calling on the Government not to stand in the way of moves to allow same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland.
Mr McGinn, Labour MP for St Helens North, urged the Government to “get off the fence” and support the change ahead of the second reading of his Private Member’s Bill on Friday.
His Bill will officially recognise same-sex marriages in Northern Ireland, bringing the rules into line with England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland and other nations.
Since the Bill’s introduction to the Commons in March, an opinion poll has shown an overwhelming 76% of the Northern Ireland public now support same-sex marriage.
The bill has been brought in via Parliament's Ten Minute Rule, which usually leads to the bill being blocked by the Government.
If the Government chooses to block the Bill, then it will be unable to proceed to Committee Stage, derailing the process and throwing the campaign for equal marriage in Northern Ireland into turmoil.
The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Karen Bradley, has previously confirmed to Mr McGinn that the Government would allow a free vote on issues of conscience like equal marriage in Northern Ireland, but no guarantees have been made ahead of the Bill’s important second reading.
Mr McGinn has written to the Secretary of State to call for the Bill’s safe passage and for clarity on the government’s position.
The Bill is expected to be read at 2.30pm at the close of business in the Commons.
A similar Bill in the name of Conservative Peer Lord Hayward is currently progressing through the House of Lords.
“The campaign to bring equal marriage to Northern Ireland has more support than ever before, with more than three quarters backing a change in the law according to the latest poll," Mr McGinn said.
“In Westminster, there is cross-party support in both the Commons and the Lords for equal marriage in Northern Ireland and the Secretary of State has confirmed that the Government will quite rightly treat this as it would any other issue of conscience – with a free vote.
“In order for my Bill to proceed and bring equal marriage in Northern Ireland another step closer, we need the Government to allow its passage at its Second Reading on Friday.
“I’m calling on the Government to get off the fence and do the right thing by the people of Northern Ireland and the thousands of same sex couples who are denied their right to marry by allowing this Bill to proceed.”
Patrick Corrigan of the Love Equality campaign for marriage equality in Northern Ireland called on the Commons to bring the legislation forward.
In March, Conor McGinn joined Love Equality campaigners in Downing Street as they handed in a 46,000-strong petition addressed to Prime Minister Theresa May, calling for the Government’s support in passing marriage equality legislation for Northern Ireland to bring the region into line with the rest of the UK.
“With Stormont in mothballs, only Westminster can end the inequality faced by LGBT couples in Northern Ireland," Mr Corrigan said.
“Equal marriage has overwhelming public support in Northern Ireland and we know that this is matched by widespread cross-party backing in Parliament.
“We now need the Government to live up to their public commitment to marriage equality in Northern Ireland by ensuring that Conor McGinn MP’s private member’s bill is able to progress to the next stage in the legislative process.”