Campaigners have welcomed a vote in the Northern Ireland Assembly today, which saw a majority of Assembly members vote in favour of marriage equality for the first time.
53 MLAs voted for and 51 against a motion which called on the Northern Ireland Executive to introduce marriage equality legislation. The motion, however, was officially defeated as the Democratic Unionist party (DUP) lodged a ‘petition on concern’ which effectively blocked the successful vote.
Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty International’s Northern Ireland Programme Director, said:
“Today’s vote is a significant milestone on the journey to marriage equality in Northern Ireland. It shows that, slowly but surely, politicians are catching up with public opinion here, which has been in favour of equal marriage for same-sex couples for some years.
“However, the abuse of the Petition of Concern, to hold back rather than uphold the rights of a minority group, means that Stormont has once again failed to keep pace with equality legislation elsewhere in the UK and Ireland.
“The battle for equality in Northern Ireland will now move to the Courts, where same-sex couples have been forced to go to secure their rights as equal citizens in this country.”
The battle for equality in Northern Ireland will now move to the Courts, where same-sex couples have been forced to go to secure their rights as equal citizens in this countryPatrick Corrigan, Amnesty International's Northern Ireland Programme Director
Two court challenges to Northern Ireland’s ban on same-sex marriages will be heard in the courts in Belfast in November and December.
“Last week the Marriage Act 2015 was signed into law in the Republic of Ireland, and the first marriages of same-sex couples are expected to take place here in the coming month. Northern Ireland is now the only jurisdiction on these islands where same-sex couples are discriminated against in respect of access the civil marriage, said Colm O’Gorman, Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland.
“It’s time for those who continue to block equality for same-sex couples and their families in Northern Ireland to accept that the majority of people there, and as of today’s vote, the majority of members of the Northern Ireland Assembly, want them to legislate for marriage equality.”