Northern Ireland: Marriage equality campaigners hand petition into Downing Street

Campaigners for marriage equality in Northern Ireland today handed in a petition signed by more than 46,000 people to Downing Street.

The petition, organised by Amnesty International, Love Equality NI and All Out, is calling for the Government’s support in passing marriage equality legislation for Northern Ireland to bring the region into line with the rest of the UK.

This afternoon, Labour MP Conor McGinn introduced his Marriage (Same Sex Couples) (Northern Ireland) Bill to the House of Commons, just one day after Conservative peer Lord Hayward introduce his identical Bill in the House of Lords.

Campaigners have described the parallel Bills as a “powerful demonstration of cross-party, cross-parliamentary support” for the push to bring marriage equality to Northern Ireland, the last part of the UK or Ireland where same-sex marriage is still unlawful.

Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty Northern Ireland programme director and a member of the Love Equality campaign, said:

“We have received huge support for our campaign for marriage equality in Northern Ireland from politicians across the political spectrum, and in both Houses of Parliament.

“We are calling on the Government to recognise this momentum for change and to introduce their own legislation to deliver equal marriage for Northern Ireland without further delay.

“The Prime Minister has previously said that LGBT people in Northern Ireland should have equal marriage rights.

“The time has come for her to right this wrong, and turn this commitment into a reality sooner rather than later.”

The equality campaign has shifted its focus to Westminster following the collapse of political talks at Stormont designed to restore devolution in Northern Ireland. The Love Equality campaign for equal civil marriage in Northern Ireland is led by the Rainbow Project, Amnesty International, Irish Congress of Trade Unions, Cara-Friend, NUS-USI and HereNI.

Background

Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK or Ireland which still bans marriage for same-sex couples, despite majority support among the public and in the Northern Ireland Assembly.

In November 2015, a majority of MLAs in the Assembly voted to support equal marriage, but the measure was blocked by the DUP using a Petition of Concern, a voting mechanism designed to protect the rights of minorities in Northern Ireland.

An Ipsos MORI poll in 2016 showed 70% support for marriage equality amongst the Northern Ireland public. It is thought that at least 55 out of 90 MLAs in the Assembly support marriage equality legislation.

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