DUP member Jeffrey Donaldson has stated that yesterday’s vote in favour of an amendment to the Northern Ireland bill, effectively legalising same-sex marriage if Stormont is not restored by October 21 ‘undermines its political institutions’.
Although same-sex marriage has been legal in England, Scotland and Wales since 2014, it has remained inaccessible in Northern Ireland due to the ‘petition of concern’ brought forward by the DUP, meaning that any vote on proposed legislation can only pass if supported by a weighted majority (from 60%) of the Northern Irish assembly.
Without an assembly or executive, the Northern Ireland government has reached a stalemate with regards to new legislation, up until yesterday.
Donaldson has claimed however that the vote undermines NI because it ‘breaches the devolution settlement’ and skirts around the democratic process which should be attended to when dealing with “sensitive issues” such as same-sex marriage.
“To do it this way is breaking the devolution settlement – that’s not the way to make the law (…) democracy should provide the opportunity for people to make a change, and that won’t happen if there’s no devolved government (…) there won’t even be another vote on this. This will be law when the legislation is passed. There won’t even be an amendment”.
DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds has echoed Donaldson, claiming that it was “fundamentally wrong” for Westminster to legislate for issues which have been devolved to the Assembly, warning that the vote could act as a disincentive to Sinn Féin to restore Stormont before October 21.
“It is not right that we should drive a coach and horses through the devolution settlement in relation to certain issues which people feel passionately and deeply about here but which are the subject of devolved powers in Northern Ireland and at a time when there are real prospects of discussions taking place among the political parties leading to an agreement for the restoration of devolution.
“The effect of taking decisions before agreements are reached is to skew those negotiations.”
Labour’s Conor McGinn, who tabled the amendment, stated that by denying civil rights to the LGBT+ community, Westminster was effectively denying them.
“It failed people in Northern Ireland by not extending same-sex marriage when it became the law here, making people in NI less valued than the rest of us. Tonight we have a chance to do the right thing”.
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