NI: Pro-equal Marriage March Belfast – Saturday 2 June

Campaigners and Conor McGinn MP call on Government to introduce Equal Marriage Bill for Northern Ireland after Private Member’s Bill blocked in Commons

Pro-equal marriage march and rally announced for Belfast – Saturday 2 June, 2018

Conor McGinn MP and campaigners have called on the Government to introduce its own Equal Marriage Bill for Northern Ireland, after Mr McGinn’s Private Member’s Bill failed to progress past Second Reading in the Commons following an objection by a backbench Conservative MP. It will return to the Commons for a further second reading on October 26.

Mr McGinn expressed disappointment that his Private Member’s Bill, which is co-sponsored by a cross-party group of MPs, was not able to progress to Committee Stage. The Labour MP for St Helens North, who is originally from Northern Ireland, said that it was now up to the Government to ensure marriage equality for same-sex couples in the region, so that they could enjoy the same rights as people in the rest of the UK and Ireland.

Meanwhile, the Love Equality campaign has announced a march and rally in Belfast to Belfast City Hall, for Saturday 2 June, to call for equal marriage legislation.

McGinn’s proposed legislation, The Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) (Northern Ireland) (No.2) Bill, would officially recognise same-sex marriages in Northern Ireland, bringing the rules into line with England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland and other nations.

Notably, the Government did not object to the passage of the Bill. The Government regularly blocks bills brought in via the Ten Minute Rule – the parliamentary route for this legislation.

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Karen Bradley, had previously confirmed to Mr McGinn that the Government would allow a free vote on issues of conscience like equal marriage in Northern Ireland, but no guarantees had been made ahead of the Bill’s important Second Reading.

A similar Bill in the name of Conservative Peer, Lord Hayward, is progressing through the House of Lords.

Conor McGinn MP stated:

“Hundreds of thousands of people in Northern Ireland who support the right of same-sex couples to marry will be outraged that one English Tory MP has been able to prevent the progress of my Equal Marriage Bill in the House of Commons today.

“While it is welcome that the Government did not object to the 2nd Reading of the Bill, they need to clarify how they intend to ensure that the right to equal marriage in Northern Ireland – which has the support of the Assembly, Parliament and the public – becomes law. The Government can’t continue to talk out of both sides of its mouth on this issue. It can and should legislate to extend equal marriage to Northern Ireland.

“I know today’s events will disappoint and frustrate the LGBT community in Northern Ireland, who continue to be denied the basic and fundamental right to marry the person they love. But I assure them that I will keep fighting for them and working with the Love Equality campaign to get this done. My Bill is due to come back to Parliament by the end of October. This is not going away, and we are not giving up.”

John O’Doherty of the Love Equality campaign for marriage equality in Northern Ireland, commented:

“Of course, it is disappointing that this Bill has been blocked from further progress today, but we want to thank Conor McGinn and all the MPs from all the parties who have supported this legislation.

“Despite huge support among the public and among Northern Ireland Assembly members, with Stormont in long-term suspension, we now look to Westminster to make marriage equality a reality for couples here.

“To demonstrate that support, once again we will take to the streets of Belfast to demand marriage equality for all our citizens. Love Equality will hold a rally at Belfast City Hall on Saturday 2nd June and we invite people to join us in numbers.

“Responsibility for legislation now sits primarily with Theresa May, Northern Ireland Secretary, Karen Bradley, and the new Equalities Minister, Penny Mordaunt, and we will seek urgent meetings with them to discuss next steps.”

In March, Conor McGinn joined Love Equality campaigners in Downing Street as they handed in a 46,000-strong petition addressed to Prime Minister, Theresa May, calling for the Government’s support in passing marriage equality legislation for Northern Ireland, to bring the region into line with the rest of the UK.

The Love Equality campaign for equal civil marriage in Northern Ireland is led by the Rainbow Project, Amnesty International, Irish Congress of Trade Unions, Cara-Friend, NUS-USI and HereNI.

The equality campaign shifted to Westminster following the February collapse of political talks at Stormont designed to restore devolution in Northern Ireland.

Since the Bill’s introduction to the Commons in March, an opinion poll has shown an overwhelming 76 per cent of the Northern Ireland public now support same-sex marriage there – the highest ever support for change -after several other polls have all shown broad support.

A Sky Data poll in April found that 76 per cent of the Northern Ireland public support a change in the law so that same-sex marriages become legal there (the highest proportion to date). You can see the full poll here: https://news.sky.com/story/northern-ireland-is-still-split-11318983.

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