Northern Ireland: Green leader pushes for equal marriage

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A private member’s motion to debate equal marriage, which previously failed to gain support, during the last session of Northern Ireland’s Legislative Assembly, has been resubmitted for the coming year.

Northern Ireland’s Green Party had tried to generate momentum for its equal marriage motion first tabled in March of this year by party leader and North Down MLA Steven Agnew.

However, due to a lack of support from other parties the motion was never brought forward in the assembly chamber.

Mr Agnew is once again hoping to gain cross-party backing for the motion, which calls for the assembly to recognise “that all couples, including those of the same sex, should have the right to marry in the eyes of the state”.

It includes a clause protecting religious institutions by affirming that they should “continue to have the right to define, observe and practise marriage within the bounds of their institutions”.

Similar religious exemptions have already been proposed by the Scottish and Westminster governments in regards to equal marriage legislation pending for England & Wales and separately for Scotland.

Mr Agnew told journalist and LGBT campaigner Gary Spedding that “If a Tory prime minister can express his support for equal marriage, then surely we can at least manage a debate”.

Sinn Fein – the only other Irish party to have held a formal policy on same-sex marriage prior to September failed to support the need for a debate at assembly level, but instead pushed for a number of local councils to adopt support for equal marriage.

The move has been welcomed by some – however other campaigners deem it to lack any real legal power.

At a recent Belfast Pride Talks Back event, Sinn Fein’s Martina Anderson publicly stated that she was “confident her party would support” the Green Party motion if it was resubmitted.