Photo Credit: Love Equality NI Facebook
A bill to have same-sex marriage legalised in Northern Ireland has passed its first stage in the House of Lords.
The private members bill was presented to the House Of Lords on Tuesday by Tory peer Lord Hayward.
“It gives me great honour to launch the Westminster campaign for equal marriage rights in Northern Ireland in the House of Lords,” Lord Hayward said.
“I am pleased to introduce the Marriage (Same Sex Couples Northern Ireland) Bill in the Lords with the support of the Love Equality campaign from Northern Ireland.”
“The strength of public opinion for equal marriage rights in Northern Ireland will be shown by the petition they are due to present to Downing Street later this week.”
Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty Northern Ireland programme director and Love Equality campaign member, said “We welcome this important intervention by Lord Hayward. Our preference has always been for the Northern Ireland Assembly to pass marriage equality legislation, in line with the overwhelming support which exists among the public here.”
“However, without functioning devolution for the last 15 months, we now look to Westminster to legislate.”
“Lord Hayward’s Bill, in parallel with Conor McGinn's Bill in the Commons later this week, is a powerful demonstration of cross-party, cross-parliamentary support for equal marriage in Northern Ireland.”
Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK that doesn’t allow same-sex marriage, due to opposition from the ultra-conservative Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).
The devolved government in Northern Ireland collapsed in January 2017, after the republican party, Sinn Fein, walked out.
Sinn Fein are refusing to return to the Assembly unless a host of demands are met by the DUP, including allowing same-sex marriage.
With talks designed to restore devolution in Northern Ireland stalled, the Love Equality campaign has been pressuring UK politicians to change the law so same-sex couples in Northern Ireland can marry.
Liberal Democrat Layla Moran, who is co-sponsoring the cross party bill to be presented to the House Of Commons on Wednesday, said “Delivering same-sex marriage in England is one of the proudest achievements of the Liberal Democrats’ time in coalition government – but sadly many couples in Northern Ireland are not allowed to marry the person they love.”
“I’d much rather that this decision was taken by local politicians in Belfast, but given that it doesn’t seem the Assembly will be up and running again soon, I believe that Westminster MPs are right to change the law to provide marriage equality for everyone.”
“It is a real honour and a privilege to be sponsoring this legislation. I hope that all parties will now support it and make sure it becomes law as quickly as possible so that everyone, in all parts of the United Kingdom, no matter where they live or who they love, can get married.”
The UK Government's Northern Ireland Secretary of State, Karen Bradley, has said the government will allow a free vote on the same-sex marriage bill “as a matter of conscience.” Sinn Fein leader Michelle O’Neill is in favour of the UK Parliament changing the law, whilst the DUP opposes the move.