Northern Ireland’s new first minister has been sworn into power – but don’t expect her to shift much on equal marriage.
Same-sex weddings are now permitted in England, Scotland, Wales and the Republic of Ireland – but continue to be blocked in Northern Ireland by the DUP.
Last year a majority of the Northern Irish Assembly voted in favour of equal marriage by 53 to 51 – but the Democratic Unionist Party used a ‘petition of concern’ to strike proposals down for a fifth time.
The party has been criticised for “abusing” petitions of concern, which were introduced to encourage power-sharing and cross-community support between Unionists and Nationalists and allows MLAs to ‘veto’ legislation they deem to harm one community.
DUP leader and first minister Peter Robinson, a strong opponent of equal marriage, announced last year that he would step down for health reasons.
He was officially replaced today by former finance mininster Arlene Foster.
While more moderate than Robinson, Ms Foster is also an opponent of same-sex marriage – meaning that little progress on the issue can be expected.
Ms Forster has previously insisted that same-sex marriage isn’t needed because gay couples can have civil partnerships.
She claimed: “Civil partnerships are now in place for homosexuals to come together in partnerships… how are they not equal?”
When informed of the multitude of restrictions that apply to civil partnerships – which can by law only be civil ceremonies – Ms Foster seemed ignorant of the current law.
Meanwhile, Westminster DUP leader Nigel Dodds has called for a “conscience” law to be introduced to allow religious business owners to discriminate against gay couples.