Conservative peer Lord Robert Hayward has appealed to Westminster to legalise same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland. The appeal comes in advance of a scheduled debate on the Civil Partnerships Bill which will be debated this Friday in the House of Lords.
Lord Hayward’s proposed amendment would allow for marriage equality in Northern Ireland while including a clause that grants the Northern Ireland Assembly six months to overturn the equal marriage provision.
As it stands, Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK which still bans marriage for same-sex couples, despite majority support among both the Northern Ireland Assembly and the public. A Sky News poll showed, in April, that 76% of the public showed support for marriage equality.
Speaking on the proposal, Hayward said:
“This amendment respects the Role of Stormont, but also recognises the reality that those devolved institutions are not currently functioning.”
Lord Hayward continued:
“Same-sex couples in Northern Ireland should not be asked to wait indefinitely for equality with the rest of the UK. It is time for Westminster to put right that wrong.”
Lord Hawyard’s appeal was welcomed by campaigners for marriage equality in Northern Ireland. Patrick Corrigan, from Amnesty International Northern Ireland and Love Equality, thanked Hawyard for his statement:
“This is a welcome move from Lord Hayward.
“More than two years after the collapse of Northern Ireland’s devolved government, we need legislators at Westminster to secure equal marriage for all.”
“If Stormont returns we are happy to continue our work with MLAs across the parties to change the law, but meanwhile, equality can’t wait.”
Stormont has been closed for the past two years, meaning that any progress on marriage equality in Northern Ireland has been impossible.
Earlier this month, Corrigan called on the UK government to take further action on the issue:
“In Northern Ireland, same-sex couples still cannot legally marry, and women are subject to some of the most draconian and outdated abortion laws in the world. The UK Government has the power and authority to legislate for change on these urgent human rights issues and cannot keep blaming the Stormont deadlock for inaction. Two years is already far too long. Our rights cannot be sacrificed any longer.”
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