Northern Ireland: Protests take place at Assembly as equal marriage measures fail again

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Northern Ireland’s Assembly on Monday voted narrowly to reject legislation to legalise equal marriage in the country.

Out of 95 MLAs who voted, 42 voted in favour, and 53 voted against the bill.

As well as the measure failing in the Assembly, pro-marriage equality demonstrations also took place as the vote went ahead. Protests took place at the Stormont Assembly, as well as in Londonderry, in favour of legalising equal marriage.

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

The legislation was destined to fail, as late last week, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) once again blocked progress on same-sex marriage legislation in the country, having effectively vetoed a motion to legalise it through a ‘petition of concern’.

A petition of concern requires a motion to have a majority of support from unionist and nationalist Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) in order to progress. As the DUP has the most MLAs of any party their petition is effectively a veto against same-sex marriage.

Canon Charles Kenny the Secretary of Changing Attitude Ireland, which last week sent a briefing note which presented secular and faith based arguments in favour of the reform to all members of the Northern Ireland Assembly, vowed to continue to fight for marriage equality in Northern Ireland.

Kenny said: “The year is drawing nearer when the love and justice expressed in the gospels will win out and sweep away the faith-based prejudice against gay and lesbian couples”.

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

A previous motion in Northern Ireland was put forward in October 2012, but was defeated by the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).