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Northern Ireland: Westminster must now legislate for marriage equality - campaigners

Westminster must now legislate for marriage equality in Northern Ireland following the collapse of the inter-party talks to restore devolved government in the province, say Love Equality campaigners.

Patrick Corrigan, of the Love Equality campaign for civil marriage equality in Northern Ireland, will tell a meeting in Westminster tonight (2 November) that it is now time for the UK government to extend same-sex marriage legislation to citizens in the region.

If Theresa May’s Government refuses to legislate for marriage equality in Northern Ireland, then MPs should introduce the measure to Parliament, Corrigan will tell the meeting at Portcullis House this evening.

Patrick Corrigan, Northern Ireland programme director of Amnesty International, one of the civil society groups which make up the Love Equality coalition, said:

“Stormont has failed. It has repeatedly failed to legislate for equal marriage despite popular support. And now it has failed to agree a government.

“For years we have asked the Northern Ireland Executive to legislate for marriage equality, in line with the wishes of the overwhelming majority of public opinion here. But it has proved incapable or unwilling to do so, has now collapsed and shows no sign of returning.

“Now it falls to the government of Theresa May to do the right thing by the LGBT community in Northern Ireland. The Prime Minister has recently said that same-sex marriage should be available in all parts of the UK and that she would support its extension to Northern Ireland. Now is the time for actions to follow words.

“If the Prime Minister refuses to legislate for equality for all LGBTI citizens in the UK, then we would expect MPs to exercise their role as legislators by extending marriage equality to citizens in Northern Ireland.”

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 originally designed to protect the rights of minorities in Northern Ireland.

Writing recently for Pink News, Theresa May wrote:

“I want all citizens to enjoy the fullest freedoms and protections. That includes equal marriage – because marriage should be for everyone, regardless of their sexuality.

“And while that is a matter for the devolved government of Northern Ireland, I will continue to make my position clear – the LGBT+ people in Northern Ireland should have the same rights as people across the UK.”

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, James Brokenshire MP, is due to introduce a Budget Bill for Northern Ireland in Parliament on November 13, widely regarded to be the first step in the replacement of devolved government with direct rule from Westminster.

Love Equality is the campaign for civil marriage equality in Northern Ireland and is a coalition comprising Amnesty International, the Rainbow Project, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, NUS-USI (National Union of Students), Here NI and Cara Friend.

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