Stonewall has joined calls for Theresa May to extend marriage laws to Northern Ireland, as the region marks two years since the collapse of its power-sharing government.

Stonewall chief executive Ruth Hunt and Frances O’Grady of the Trades Union Congress signed a joint letter to UK Prime Minister Theresa May, urging her to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples in the region in the absence of a government.

The letter organised by Love Equality and Amnesty International says: “Today (January 9) marks two years since the collapse of Northern Ireland’s devolved government.

“That’s two more years during which same-sex couples in Northern Ireland have been denied the right to marry.”

British Prime Minister Theresa May leaves 10 Downing Street to attend the weekly Prime Ministers Questions on January 9, 2019 in London, England.
British Prime Minister Theresa May leaves 10 Downing Street to attend the weekly Prime Ministers Questions on January 9, 2019 in London, England. (Dan Kitwood/Getty)

Same-sex weddings have been permitted in the Republic of Ireland since 2015, Scotland since 2014, and England and Wales since 2013, but gay couples in Northern Ireland have never been granted the right to marry despite overwhelming public support.

Stonewall and the Trades Union Congress challenged Theresa May

The joint letter adds: “Regrettably there is currently no talks process, never mind an agreement for a return of devolved government to Northern Ireland. Given these unfortunate circumstances, the only legislature currently able to address this inequality is at Westminster.

“The UK Government is rightly proud of its record in promoting LGBT+ rights around the world. Yet, here in the UK, LGBT+ people are experiencing blatant discrimination on its watch.

“That is why, alongside our partners in the Northern Ireland Love Equality campaign, we are appealing to the Government to extend the England and Wales legislation to couples in Northern Ireland.

“The Stormont Assembly can then legislate on the matter in its own right when it returns.”

The letter was also signed by Kate Allen, Director of Amnesty International UK, and Shakira Martin, President of the National Union of Student

Overwhelming support for marriage equality in Northern Ireland

Northern Irish LGBT+ campaigners have repeatedly called on Theresa May to extend equal marriage, with 76% support for marriage equality amongst the Northern Ireland public.

At least 55 of the 90 members of the suspended Northern Ireland Assembly also back the change, but under the Good Friday Agreement the body cannot sit or pass a law without the restoration of power-sharing deal.

Theresa May has rebuffed previous attempts to bring equal marriage to Northern Ireland via Westminster, insisting the issue must wait for devolution to be restored.

Love Equality campaigners attacked May’s decision to deny rights to same-sex couples on an open-ended basis with no future devolution deal in sight.

In October, MPs in the UK Parliament passed a largely symbolic measure addressing the lack of equal marriage in Northern Ireland.

The backbench plan from Labour MPs Stella Creasy and Conor McGinn passed by a vote of 207 to 117, condemning Northern Ireland’s bans on abortion and gay weddings.

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