The majority of MPs from Northern Ireland who were eligible to participate in Tuesday’s reading of same-sex marriage legislation opposed the bill.
Overall, 400 MPs voted to pass the bill while 175 voted against it. Of the 13 Northern Irish MPs eligible to take part, only two voted in favour of the proposals.
The two were Mark Durkan of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) and Naomi Long of the Alliance Party
All eight Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) MPs voted against, as well as independent MP Lady Sylvia Hermon. Margaret Ritchie and Alasdair McDonnell of the SDLP asbstained.
DUP MP Ian Paisley drew laughter from the House of Commons when he used his turn to speak to claim that same-sex marriage would result in a drop in marriage rates for opposite-sex couples.
Naomi Long of Belfast east, who voted in favour of the bill, said: “As a Christian and a liberal, I believe that equality and religious freedom are fundamental to a democratic society and that both must be promoted and protected, a position which is reflected in our policy and also in the bill.
“I believe that the government have set out clearly their intention to provide both equality of access and robust protections for faith groups who do not in conscience support same-sex civil marriage, ensuring that they will not be forced to conduct same-sex marriage ceremonies or have them conducted on their premises, or be prevented from expressing their views on the matter,” she said.
“It is also important in the context of religious freedom, that those faith groups who wish, in conscience, to marry same-sex couples are able to do so without being prevented by the state, something which is also contained in the bill.”
Peter Lynas, the director of the Northern Irish branch of the Evangelical Alliance, said that as an opponent of equal marriage he was encouraged that only two of the Northern Irish MPs had voted for it. He said: “David Cameron’s crusade to redefine marriage will have profound implications for society.
“By playing politics with this vitally important institution, the government is proposing a new social orthodoxy against which any safeguards for dissenting voices will not stand.”
John O’Doherty, Chair of Equal Marriage Northern Ireland, said that the final outcome was “a victory for equality and a victory for decency” and praised the tone of the debate: ”Those who are opposed to equal marriage, with the notable exception of DUP MPs, largely made their contributions without resorting to fallacy and hyperbole.”
He went on to say that he was still concerned that same-sex couples married in England or Wales will still only be recognised as civil partners in Northern Ireland, and pledged to pressure MPs to amend the bill to correct this “untenable anomaly”.
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