Another defeat for equal marriage in Northern Ireland in the Stormont Assembly

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

Politicians have once again blocked moves to legalise equal marriage in Northern Ireland.

Last night the country’s Stormont Assembly voted against recognising the same-sex marriage bill for England and Wales, which is currently nearing the end of its journey in the House of Lords.

Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) passed a Legislative Consent Motion which excluded recognising most of the provisions of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill.

It means same-sex marriages in England and Wales will be treated as civil partnerships in Northern Ireland.

Opponents argued that the motion before them reduced the chances of any court challenge to Northern Ireland’s decision to oppose same-sex marriage.

Supporters of the change argued that, given a majority of MLAs are opposed to equal marriage, it was pragmatic to legislate for how those who enter same-sex marriages in the rest of the UK will be treated in the Province.

The Assembly has twice voted against private member’s motions on same-sex marriage, but, unlike last night’s vote, those motions would not have changed the law.

A joint same-sex marriage proposal by Sinn Fein and the Green Party was defeated in October along nationalist and unionist lines.

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) again blocked progress on equal marriage through another “petition of concern” in April.

Under Stormont rules, any party can trigger a petition of concern on a motion that then can only pass if the majority of nationalists and unionists back it together.

As the DUP has the most MLAs of any party their petition is effectively a veto against same-sex marriage.