Last month, both MPs and Lords backed the amendment to make same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland a reality. This is a huge step forward for LGBT equality in the UK and a tribute to the tireless work and advocacy of our partners at the Love Equality campaign. But, is this a done deal?
After same-sex weddings were legalised in England and Wales in 2013 and then in Scotland the following year, Northern Ireland remained the only part of the UK where same-sex couples could not marry.
In April last year, a Sky News poll showed there was 76% support for equal marriage amongst the public in Northern Ireland, with just 18% opposed to it. Even the Northern Ireland Assembly backed this, with a majority of its Members voting in support in 2015. Unfortunately, the initiative was blocked by the DUP back then, using something called a Petition of Concern - a voting mechanism that was meant to protect the rights of minorities in Northern Ireland.
After tireless campaigning by the Love Equality coalition, Conor McGinn MP, originally from County Armagh, put forward an amendment on 7 July this year and Westminster finally made a move to end this long-standing injustice while the Northern Ireland Assembly was not sitting.
“This is a huge step forward for LGBT equality in the UK and a tribute to those who have spent years building momentum and public support for equal marriage in Northern Ireland”, said Paul Twocock, Executive Director of Campaigns and Strategy.
However, the Northern Ireland Bill that was passed obliges the Government to change the law on 21 October this year only if the devolved administration has not been restored by then.
If devolution isn’t re-established, we should see the first same-sex marriages happening at the end of January 2020 and Northern Irish citizens will finally be able to enjoy the same rights to marry as everyone else in the UK.