Tory voters back Northern Ireland equal marriage, as Theresa May faces pressure
Polling commissioned by PinkNews shows that a majority of Conservative voters support equal marriage in Northern Ireland, as Prime Minister Theresa May faces pressure to act on the issue.
Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK without same-sex marriage, and Theresa May has faced calls to act on the issue in the UK Parliament due to the ongoing suspension of the region’s devolved power-sharing Assembly.
LGBT campaigners in the region say it is up to the Prime Minister to deliver equal rights in the absence of the devolved government, which broke down more than a year ago and shows little signs of reforming.
UK-wide YouGov polling commissioned ahead of a PinkNews summer reception in Belfast – supported by Citi – this week shows that a majority of Conservative Party voters favour reform.
Of those that had an opinion, 70 percent of Conservative voters agree that same-sex couples should be able to marry in Northern Ireland, alongside 89 percent of Labour voters and 90 percent of Liberal Democrat voters.
The popularity of the move among Conservative voters represents an about-face from 2013, when David Cameron implemented equal marriage in England and Wales despite majority opposition from Tory voters.
Overall, 80 percent of those who have an opinion believe that gay couples should be able to marry in Northern Ireland.
Looking only at responses from Northern Ireland, 76 percent of respondents said gay couples should have a right to marry in the region.
Patrick Corrigan of the Love Equality campaign said: “Three-quarters of people here want to see marriage equality introduced.
“There has been no devolved government in Northern Ireland for almost eighteen months.
“Responsibility for marriage equality legislation, just as with abortion law reform, now sits squarely with the UK Government.
“How much longer do Ministers think LGBT+ people in Northern Ireland should have to wait to be treated equally?”
The news comes after Justine Greening, who was May’s Minister for Women and Equalities until January, put her name to a letter urging the PM to act.
Greening signed a letter alongside other cross-party sponsors of a backbench bill to bring equal marriage to Northern Ireland, after the PM’s high-profile intervention on upskirting.
They wrote: “We welcome the prime minister stepping in to back a private members’ bill to make upskirting a specific criminal offence in government time, after it was blocked at second reading last week.
“As MPs from across the House of Commons, we were disappointed that a Bill to legalise same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland was recently blocked in exactly the same way.
“It is deeply unfair that, in 2018, same-sex couples in Northern Ireland are prohibited by law from marrying, but those in England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland are permitted to do so.
“A change in the law ought to be introduced by a fully functioning devolved administration, but the lack of a functioning government in Northern Ireland should not delay the provision of fundamental rights.
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“Hence, the government should bring the bill to legalise same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland into its own time in the House of Commons.”
The letter was signed by Labour MPs Conor McGinn, Wes Streeting, Karin Smyth, Ged Killen, Yvette Cooper, Owen Smith, and Angela Eagle, Liberal Democrat Layla Moran, Green MP Caroline Lucas, and Conservatives Justine Greening and Nick Herbert.
The issue is complicated by Theresa May’s government reliance upon the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party to prop up its majority in Parliament.
The DUP, founded by ‘Save Ulster from Sodomy’ leader Ian Paisley, has traditionally held strong anti-LGBT views.
However, current leader Arlene Foster has said she hopes to begin to reach out to the LGBT community, and indicated she plans to attend PinkNews’ summer reception in Belfast this Thursday (June 28).