Northern Ireland: Equal marriage legislation to be debated by Assembly

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A motion calling for legislation in Northern Ireland to allow for same sex marriage will be debated by the Stormont Assembly on 29 April 2013.

The proposed motion is being pushed by Sinn Fein following an overwhelming vote in favour of a referendum on legalising same-sex marriage in the Republic of Ireland.

It calls for the Northern Ireland Assembly to recognise the significance of the Constitutional Convention and asks the NI Executive to bring forward the necessary legislation to allow for same sex marriage in Northern Ireland.

The motion in full, reads: “That this Assembly recognises the importance of the Constitutional Convention; notes the participation of parties from the Assembly; welcomes the 79% majority vote at the Constitution in favour of marriage equality; and calls on the Executive to bring forward the necessary legislation to allow for same sex marriage.”

A previous motion was put forward in October 2012, but a tactic at Stormont by the Democratic Unionist Party defeated the move.

Last time a motion seeking to bring in full same-sex marriage equality was debated in Northern Ireland the vote split, largely along nationalist and unionist lines and fell narrowly by 45 votes in favour to 50 against.

Equal Marriage campaigners in Northern Ireland have prepared for the upcoming debate by mobilizing to show MLAs that there is public support for LGBT equality in Northern Ireland.

A facebook event page has been set up to encourage the public to write to their Member of the Legislative Assembly using a template letter that defines three avenues of approaching politicians who either were in favour, against or were not present at the previous vote.

There will be a demonstration, organised by Equal Marriage Northern Ireland, outside the Stormont parliament buildings between 12-1.30pm to coincide with the debate on 29 April which shall be the culmination of extensive lobbying efforts the group are undertaking at this time.

If this motion were to pas it would affirm a strong will in the Assembly for the Executive to change the law regarding same-sex marriage.

Amnesty International and gay rights pressure group the Rainbow Project last month warned that the government in Northern Ireland would face legal action over its refusal to adopt same-sex marriage, once it passes into law in England and Wales.

In a case that could echo the future legal battle over same-sex marriage, in October 2012 a High Court judge took the side of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission and ruled that Northern Ireland’s ban on gay couples adopting was unlawful, bringing it in line with the rest of the UK.

The majority of Northern Irish MPs who took part in the 5 February Commons vote on same-sex marriage in England and Wales voted against it.