UK government urged to intervene in Northern Ireland to secure equal marriage
The UK government has been urged to step up pressure on the devolved Northern Irish administration, over the First Minister’s continued efforts to block all progress equal marriage.
Northern Ireland is the last remaining place in the UK where same-sex marriage continues to be blocked, as the governing Democratic Unionist Party employs Petitions of Concern – a power designed to ensure cross-community power sharing – to veto marriage bills despite a Parliamentary majority in favour.
The DUP ran on a platform of ‘defending marriage’ in Assembly elections earlier this year, and First Minister Arlene Foster recently reaffirmed plans to continue employing powers to block any future marriage legislation, continuing a stalemate on the issue.
Ms Foster recently defended her actions by insisting gay people don’t really want to get married anyway.
Speaking in the House of Lords, Labour peer Lord Kennedy of Southwark urged the UK government to set aside the principle of respecting the devolved administration’s wishes, in order to make its dissatisfaction clear on the issue.
Addressing plans for a UK-wide Turing’s Law to pardon gay sex offences, the peer said: “Of course, we need to go further in Northern Ireland, but this is an important step.
“I want to see the day when LGBT people living in Northern Ireland have exactly the same rights, protections and freedoms as LGBT people living in England, Scotland and Wales.
“We are a United Kingdom, albeit with devolved institutions, but LGBT people should have the right to get married in Northern Ireland; that must be urgently addressed by the Northern Ireland Assembly and the ministerial team led by the First Minister and Deputy First Minister in Stormont.
“It is wrong to keep using the petition of concern procedure to block progress in this matter.
“The UK Government must play their role in championing the rights of LGBT people in Northern Ireland by raising this issue at ministerial and official level. It is not enough for the Government to say that it is a matter for the devolved institution.”