Same-Sex Marriage And Abortion Laws To Be Considered For Northern Ireland

A woman holding a placard which reads

Same-Sex Marriage And Abortion Laws To Be Considered For Northern Ireland

Under the legislation, the British government will extend marriage equality to Northern Ireland and legislate for abortion by October 21st, unless devolution is restored.

The Commons voted 383 to 73 to pass the same-sex marriage amendment to a largely technical bill on the stalled Northern Ireland assembly, tabled by the Labour MP Conor McGinn, originally from south Armagh and a longstanding campaigner for equal marriage in Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland now has one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the world, with the procedure carrying maximum sentences of life imprisonment, even in cases of rape, incest and fatal fetal abnormality.

"To do it in the way that it is proposed now, not only breaches the devolution settlement and undermines the concept of devolution and political institutions in Northern Ireland, it's not a good way to make law".

It has been without a functioning Government since January 2017. The Republic of Ireland legalised same-sex marriage in May 2015 following a referendum.

In a statement, MP McGinn said: "This is a fantastic victory for the Love Equality campaign and everyone who has campaigned over many years for equal marriage in Northern Ireland".

Labour's Conor McGinn put forward a proposal to the NI Executive Formation Bill that if Stormont is not restored by 21 October, then the government should legislate for same-sex marriage - with the caveat that a future assembly could overturn or amend the law.

The government has always said the issue should be decided by local politicians.

Prior to the vote, the leader of Ireland's Catholics, Archbishop Eamon Martin, had urged Catholics and others to lobby MPs to oppose the changes.

However, the changes will not come into effect if the two parties that share power in Belfast, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and Sinn Fein, can reach agreement in the coming months.

Votes on the amendments were free votes for MPs, as they were viewed as a matter of conscience.

MP Creasy told her fellow MPs: "How much longer are the women of Northern Ireland expected to wait?"

Speaking in the Commons on Monday evening, Nationalist MP Gavin Newlands had said it was "a long-held principle that we on the SNP benches do not vote on matters devolved to other parts of the United Kingdom. we are not blind to the circumstances in Northern Ireland, but we intend to stick to that principle".

"It is a huge celebration for the LGBT community but also for Northern Ireland as a whole", he said.

Patrick Corrigan is Amnesty International's Northern Ireland director, and part of the Love Equality coalition.

"It's been eight years since this campaign started, it's been five years since the introduction in England and Wales - LGBT people in Northern Ireland have waited long enough".

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