Belfast Telegraph

Same-sex marriage will be 'law of the land' by 2020 says Northern Ireland Minister

Protesters at a rally calling for the legalisation of same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland
Protesters at a rally calling for the legalisation of same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland

A Northern Ireland minister has said that same-sex marriage will be the "law of the land" by 2020 and that preparations are well underway.

Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Lord Duncan told Pink News that same-sex marriage would become law in Northern Ireland "full stop".

In July, MPs passed the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Act, which contained a provision placing a duty on the Government to regulate to provide same-sex marriage and abortion access in Northern Ireland.

It comes into effect if the Stormont executive is not restored by October 21.

Same-sex marriage is currently outlawed in Northern Ireland, though civil partnerships are allowed.

Lord Duncan said he was surprised there had not been more opposition to the introduction of same-sex marriage.

The DUP believes marriage is only between a man and a woman and in the past has used a mechanism known as a petition of concern to prevent changes to the law from being passed at Stormont, despite the majority of MLAs being in favour of the move.

“Everything is on schedule, it’s a big job, but we will deliver it, and we have not experienced any push back. We were fearful that there would be perhaps a campaign or opposition to this in Northern Ireland but there hasn’t been," the former Scottish MEP said.

“This will be the law of the land, and once we get past that October 22 deadline we will deliver it full stop."

Lord Duncan, who is openly gay, said he was torn on the issue as he wanted Stormont back up and running.

Lord Duncan of Springbank
Lord Duncan of Springbank

He said work was ongoing to ensure same-sex couples in Northern Ireland would be given the "the full deal", the same rights as heterosexual couples.

“What we have to ensure is that wherever the law mentions ‘husband and wife’ and ‘man and woman’ it has to be corrected to reflect the change,” he said.

“We’re working to identify all areas where legacy language exists. The legislation impacted by this covers pensions, benefits and so on.

“We want to make sure that on that date in January, we don’t miss something. So we’re working assiduously to ensure that absolute legal certainty is granted, exactly as you would be if you were marrying as a heterosexual couple.”

Lord Duncan accepted there were some people in Northern Ireland still opposed to the move.

“I think a lot of this is the unknown, for some people. You see this wherever there are unknowns, there are groups that are uneasy about what it means.

“But I think, right now, the majority in Northern Ireland have been for some time minded towards change, just as they have been in the Republic of Ireland. And I think this is an area where, once it’s done, people will begin to look back and wonder why it wasn’t done before.

“The important part to take away from this is, no one is getting married in order to do somebody down or annoy somebody. This is about bringing people together, people who have love in their hearts and want to be together.” 

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