- 09 Jul 19
An amendment, tabled by Labour MP Conor McGinn, has passed in Westminster this afternoon, meaning that same-sex marriage will become law in Northern Ireland if there is still no functioning government after October 21.
UK MP Conor McGinn tabled an amendment that would allow MPs in the House of Commons to vote on whether equal marriage should be made law in Northern Ireland.
Issues such as equal marriage would normally be devolved to countries within the United Kingdom, but considering Northern Ireland hasn't had a functioning government in over two years, McGinn has said that this issue required voting at Westminster.
Speaking on RTE Morning Ireland, the Armagh-born politician said that he wanted Northern Ireland to be in line with the rest of the UK and Ireland when it comes to same-sex marriage.
"I've been trying to get Northern Ireland to be in line with both the rest of the UK and the rest of the island of Ireland in terms of legalising same-sex marriage or equal marriage.
"What I'm proposing this week is that if the Stormont executive isn't up and functioning again by the 21st of October, which is the deadline in the bill itself proposed by the Secretary of State, that we would at Westminster legislate to make same-sex marriage legal in Northern Ireland."
MPs had also been able to argue that Westminster intervention is logically in the case of equal marriage, considering that a majority of MLAs in the Northern Irish Assembly voted to legalise it back in 2015, but the legislation was blocked by the DUP, who used the controversial Petition of Concern.
Conor McGinn said before the vote that he was "confident" that he would get the support for the Bill.
In the 24 hours leading up to the vote, the Scottish National Party had been at the cross-hairs of this debate. The party initially said that it wouldn't vote for this Bill - in keeping with their policy of opposing UK government intervention in devolved issues - but earlier today they indicated that they will allow a free vote on the matter. With both the party leader, Nicola Sturgeon, and the party leader in Westminster, Ian Blackford, tweeting their support for the Bill, it had bolstered those who believed that a win was possible.
The DUP were, naturally, vehemently opposed to this Bill. The DUP leader in Westminster said that the vote "drove a horse and cart" through the idea of devolution. However, many of their politicians might be privately happy that it passed, considering that it takes the sting out of the issue and means they can continue to object to same-sex marriage being implemented on the face of things - without having to actually further campaign and lobby against it.
While the route may have been circuitous, this vote marks a triumph for equal rights activists and the wider LGBT+ community throughout Northern Ireland. This was long overdue.
MPs have voted 383-73 to legalise same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland: A very significant moment, both for those campaigning for same-sex marriage & because by stepping in with an act of direct rule Westminster is signalling a wider impatience over failure to restore Stormont. pic.twitter.com/fpG4fE0hMg
— Sam McBride (@SJAMcBride) July 9, 2019
— Jo Stevens (@JoStevensLabour) July 9, 2019