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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, July 12, 2019 - Volume 47 Issue 28
British parliament votes to extend marriage equality to Northern Ireland
Section One
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British parliament votes to extend marriage equality to Northern Ireland

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Britain's parliament voted on July 9 to extend marriage equality to Northern Ireland. The count was a landslide 383 to 73, with 194 members absent or abstaining.

The marriage bill was introduced by a Labour member, Conor McGinn, and allowed to proceed as a 'free vote' - in other words, one where the members were not bound to vote their party's line.

The Tory government headed by Theresa May said it would honor Parliament's vote despite its own misgivings.

While Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom, it is internally self-governing, and its own parliament has turned down the marriage equality bills that have been regularly introduced there.

McGinn, who is from Northern Ireland and is a veteran advocate for LGBT rights, took advantage of a commonplace administrative bill to add same-sex marriage rights and reproductive choice to the laws governing Northern Ireland.

In his speech from the floor, McGinn told Parliament that they had 'failed LGBT people in Northern Ireland before' by not extending rights in a timely way.

'Tonight,' he continued, 'we have the chance to do the right thing. People in Northern Ireland, and indeed across Britain and Ireland, are watching.

'I, for one, am not going to let them down. I hope colleagues do not let them down either.'

Speaking after the vote, director of the Rainbow Project and member of the Love Equality campaign John O'Doherty said: 'We would like to express our gratitude to Conor McGinn and Robert Hayward for their efforts in progressing marriage equality through Westminster - helping to end second-class citizenship for LGBT+ people in Northern Ireland.

'Parliament has always had the power to legislate for marriage equality in Northern Ireland. We are glad the House of Commons has seen sense and voted to give people in Northern Ireland the same freedoms enjoyed by everyone else in these islands.

'All love is equal, and we are proud to celebrate this achievement with our community, friends, colleagues, and allies from across these islands. Our future got a little brighter today, and we hope that LGBT people across Northern Ireland will wake up tomorrow feeling more hopeful for the future we all want to see.'

The Northern Irish government has been deadlocked between Unionist and Nationalist factions for the past two years. Consequently, all administrative laws have reverted to the British parliament.

Sinn Fein, the leading Nationalist party in Northern Ireland, has supported marriage equality and reproductive choice, in spite of being considered a 'Catholic' party, while the Democratic Unionist Party has opposed both.

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