Belfast Telegraph

Westminster urged to intervene over marriage equality in Northern Ireland

Amnesty International was among a number of organisations who made the call as Northern Ireland marks two years without devolved government.

Westminster has been urged to legislate to allow same sex marriage in Northern Ireland.

The call came on Wednesday as the country marked two years without devolved government.

Northern Ireland is currently the only part of the United Kingdom or Republic of Ireland which maintains a ban on marriage for same-sex couples.

Amnesty International UK, Stonewall, the Trades Union Congress and the NUS have urged the UK Government to intervene and legislate for same-sex marriage in the region.

The appeal was made in a joint statement signed by Kate Allen, Director of Amnesty International UK, Ruth Hunt, Chief Executive of Stonewall, Frances O’Grady, General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress and Shakira Martin, President of the National Union of Students.

“The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013, for England and Wales, was passed by the UK Parliament in 2013. Similar legislation was passed by the Scottish Parliament in 2014. Same-sex marriage in the Republic of Ireland has been legal since 2015, following a referendum which sent tremors of joy around the world,” they said.

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Shannon Sickles (right) and Grainne Close, leave Belfast city Hall, Monday December 19, 2005, as the first set of civil partnership ceremonies for gay couples in the UK take place in Northern Ireland. (Paul Faith/PA)

“Yet, in 2019, same-sex couples in Northern Ireland are still being denied that simple right. This is despite overwhelming support among the public there, as demonstrated in poll after poll, and the support of at least 55 of the 90 members of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

“However, the Assembly has not had the power to legislate for the last two years. Regrettably there is currently no talks process, never mind an agreement for a return of devolved government to Northern Ireland.  Given these unfortunate circumstances, the only legislature currently able to address this inequality is at Westminster.”

They went on to urge Westminster to intervene, arguing same sex couples “must not be made to pay the price of the Assembly’s collapse”.

Last September, two couples renewed their legal challenge to the ban on them getting married.

Grainne Close and her partner Shannon Sickles, along with Chris and Henry Flanagan-Kane made history in 2005 when they became the first couples in the UK to enter civil partnerships when Northern Ireland became the first UK region to introduce the ceremonies for same sex couples.

The Court of Appeal is expected to come to a decision this year.

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