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Same-sex marriage will be ‘the law of the land’ in Northern Ireland by 2020

Emma Powys Maurice September 8, 2019

Thousands marched for same-sex marriage on June 13, 2015 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. (Charles McQuillan/Getty)

Preparations for introducing same-sex marriage to Northern Ireland are going full steam ahead, with one senior minister declaring it will be “the law of the land” by 2020.

Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK where same-sex marriage is not legally recognised. On July 9, MPs voted overwhelmingly in favour of changing the law on 21 October 2019 if the devolved Northern Ireland Executive has not been re-established by that date.

With less than seven weeks to go until October 21 and Northern Ireland still without a devolved government, PinkNews spoke to Lord Ian Duncan, Northern Ireland Office Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, about how the situation is progressing.

This will be the law of the land, and once we get past that October 22 deadline we will deliver it full stop.

“Everything is on schedule,” he said. “It’s a big job, but we will deliver it, and we have not experienced any push back. We were fearful that there would be perhaps a campaign or opposition to this in Northern Ireland but there hasn’t been.

“This will be the law of the land, and once we get past that October 22 deadline we will deliver it full stop.”

His confidence in same-sex marriage being legalised in 2020 suggests that the Executive is unlikely to be restored before the crucial deadline, although Duncan was unwilling to confirm if this is the case.

“On this issue I feel a degree of being torn because I want an Executive up and running again, but I’m also a gay man, my husband and I are in a civil union,” he said.

Lord Ian Duncan in the Scottish Parliament, September 26, 2017 (Ken Jack/Corbis/Corbis/Getty)

He explained that the current focus is on ensuring the legal code affords married same-sex couples the same rights as married heterosexual couples, so that when the law is ready to be changed, LGBT+ couples have “the full deal”.

“What we have to ensure is that wherever the law mentions ‘husband and wife’ and ‘man and woman’ it has to be corrected to reflect the change,” he said.

“We’re working to identify all areas where legacy language exists. The legislation impacted by this covers pensions, benefits and so on.

“We want to make sure that on that date in January, we don’t miss something. So we’re working assiduously to ensure that absolute legal certainty is granted, exactly as you would be if you were marrying as a heterosexual couple.”

Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK that does not recognise same-sex marriage (Getty)

Majority of UK for marriage equality in Northern Ireland

Support for extending full marriage equality to Northern Ireland has grown to 70 percent across the UK, and 55 percent in the region itself.

Other polling suggests that public support for equal marriage in Northern Ireland is as high as 76 percent, with just 18 percent actively opposed.

Referring to the percentage who don’t back marriage equality, Duncan said: “I think a lot of this is the unknown, for some people. You see this wherever there are unknowns, there are groups that are uneasy about what it means.

“But I think, right now, the majority in Northern Ireland have been for some time minded towards change, just as they have been in the Republic of Ireland. And I think this is an area where, once it’s done, people will begin to look back and wonder why it wasn’t done before.”

He added: “The important part to take away from this is, no one is getting married in order to do somebody down or annoy somebody. This is about bringing people together, people who have love in their hearts and want to be together.”

 

 

More: LGBT rights in Northern Ireland, Northern Ireland, same-sex marriage Northern Ireland

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