New Proposals For Marriage Equality In Northern Ireland

Westiminister's possible direct rule of Northern Ireland could make referendums on same-sex marriage and abortion legislation a possibility.


The Shadow Northern Ireland secretary, Owen Smith, is understood to be in favour of putting both the issue of marriage equality and abortion to a referendum if the devolved government cannot be restored.

This would happen if the state was under direct rule from Westminster as a result of the Stormont assembly being without a power-sharing executive for over a year now.

In May 2015, Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, the DUP, blocked same-sex marriage from being legalised by using the petition of concern prior to Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) voting on the measure, to ensure that it would not go through, even if it secured enough votes at Stormont. It was the DUP’s fifth time to use such tactics.

A poll conducted by Ipsos MORI found that 70% of the citizens of Northern Ireland support same-sex marriage. It also found that 50% of DUP supporters are in favour of marriage equality.

Four in five (80%) respondents from a Catholic community background agreed that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry, compared to 60% of those from a Protestant upbringing.

Speaking in 2016, leader of the DUP, Arlene Foster said the following about same-sex marriage: “I could not care less what people get up to in terms of their sexuality, that’s not a matter for me – when it becomes a matter for me is when people try to redefine marriage”.

She told The Independent in 2016, she spoke on abortion, “I would not want abortion to be as freely available here [Northern Ireland] as it is in England and don’t support the extension of the 1967 act”.

Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK where same-sex couples do not have the right to marry or for their marriage to be legally recognised.

In favour of Marriage equality in Northern Ireland, Councillor smith stands to the left with Arlen Foster on the right.
John Scott with the leader of the DUP Arlene Foster

DUP councillor, John Scott, has recently voiced his support for marriage equality and relaxing abortion laws in Northern Ireland. Since taking up his post he has kept his conviction on these issues and The Irish News: “My views have not changed on same-sex marriage or the support for relaxing the abortion laws.”

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