Northern Irish Assembly votes for equal marriage, but DUP vetoes it

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Northern Ireland’s Stormont Assembly has voted in favour of same-sex marriage – but the DUP has blocked it through a ‘petition of concern’.

Same-sex marriage is law in England, Wales and Scotland and the Republic of Ireland – but in Northern Ireland, the Democratic Unionist Party has blocked it repeatedly.

Today, a majority of the Northern Irish Assembly voted in favour of equal marriage, only to be blocked by the DUP under powers handed to it via the peace process.

A measure on the issue backed by the SDLP, Sinn Féin and the Green Party was put to the devolved assembly, which voted in favour by a slim margin in favour.

However, despite 50.5% of MLAs voting in favour, the DUP used a ‘petition of concern’ to strike it down for a fifth time.

The issue has already been vetoed four times since 2012 – but the vote was the first since the people of the Republic of Ireland voted overwhelmingly in favour of equal marriage in May this year.

However, despite winning a majority on the issue, the DUP continues to refuse to budge on the issue.

Director of The Rainbow Project, John O’Doherty said: “We are absolutely elated today. We cannot overstate the impact this vote will have on our community across Northern Ireland. I want to sincerely thank all those MLAs who voted in favour of the motion today; those who have supported marriage equality from the start and particularly those who have gone on a journey in their support.

“It is true that the DUP have abused the petition of concern to block this vote and are now ignoring the will of the Assembly and the people of Northern Ireland but we will not allow them to dampen our joy today. Our campaign continues and it will not end until marriage equality is a reality for everyone in Northern Ireland.

“Today’s majority vote marks another landmark victory in our campaign and we celebrate with our LGBT friends, our families and our supporters on this momentous day.”

DUP Chief Whip Peter Weir said: “Whilst this is the first time that a majority of MLAs have voted in favour of same sex marriage many people are notably quick to dismiss the other four occasions that a majority rejected this same proposal.

“If it requires a process of attrition to alter a result it does not demonstrate a great deal of force behind the argument of those who have brought forward the proposal on each occasion.

“It is for those whose position has changed to outline how the arguments have altered their view. The vast majority of people, on both sides of this undoubtedly sensitive subject have views which are shaped on deeply held convictions.

“Whilst we may not always agree it is possible to understand the passion behind an argument. It is much more difficult to understand the choice of someone who shapes their views simply on a calculation they might back the ‘winning’ argument.

“Even without a Petition of Concern this motion would not be binding on the Executive as a whole or on any Minister. It now remains to be seen whether those who have brought forward the motion on five separate occasions will again see the debate repeated in another six months.”

Sinn Féin MLA Caitríona Ruane said previously: “Great progress has been made in the campaign for marriage equality in the south of Ireland and in Britain but sadly not in the North.

“Equality threatens no one and there is a need for all parties to stand up for the rights of everyone in the community regardless of creed, colour, or sexual orientation and support the introduction of marriage equality.

“Sinn Féin has been to the fore in supporting marriage equality across Ireland and in Europe and voted for marriage equality each time it has come before the Assembly.

“Marriage equality is a civil rights issue and it is long past the time that it was extended to citizens across Ireland.”