United Kingdom lawmakers vote to legalise same-sex marriage in N. Ireland


Martin Toland (left), kisses his husband John O'Doherty at the Maverick bar, Belfast, as same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland came a step closer after MPs voted to legalise it if a new Stormont Executive is not formed by October.

In the House of Commons on Tuesday, politicians backed the same-sex marriage amendment by 383 votes to 73 while the abortion amendment was backed 332 to 99.

Conservative former minister Nick Herbert said he would support the equal marriage amendment, telling MPs: "Too often people find themselves saying the UK has provided for same-sex marriage but that isn't true, and it is anomalous... that citizens in one part of the United Kingdom can not avail themselves of something which many people regard to be a matter of their fundamental rights, which is to be able to enter into a marriage with a person they love".

Both legal changes were passed by MPs at speed and with limited scrutiny because they came as amendments to a Northern Ireland bill being fast-tracked through Parliament by Karen Bradley.

In his statement, Bishop Sherrington said such a change would leave Northern Ireland with a significantly different abortion framework to the Republic of Ireland, where, following the recent referendum, there is a twelve-week limit.

The abortion amendment brought forth by another Labour MP, Stella Creasy.

The Stormont powers-haring administration has not sat for two-and-a-half years, and Labour MP Conor McGinn led the cross-party bid to address the issue at Westminster.

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The DUP has said the issue would be unhelpful given fresh talks, but Mr McGinn said it would act as an incentive to get the Executive up and running again.

The successful amendment argued that the United Kingdom government is obliged to extend the law to do this to comply with human rights obligations.

They will only take effect if Stormont is not restored by 21 October (the next obligatory date by which the NI secretary must call an assembly election).

The votes were free vote for MPs, as they were viewed as a matter of conscience. If we say to women that we will force them to continue an unwanted pregnancy, they will always be second-class citizens compared with their male counterparts. "We will not stand for this tyrannical and bloody-thirsty attack on Northern Ireland's unborn children, on our democracy and the principles of devolution".

MP Creasy told her fellow MPs: "How much longer are the women of Northern Ireland expected to wait?"

"It would also leave Northern Ireland, England and Wales with some of the most extreme abortion laws in the world, and more than twice the limit of most European countries", he said. "Society's laws may have changed but the law of God remains the same: to take the life of any person directly and intentionally is a grave sin and a awful crime".