Northern Ireland attorney general: Same-sex marriage is a matter of ‘pure social policy’

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Northern Ireland’s attorney general has insisted that same-sex marriage remains a matter for the devolved assembly – even though progress on the issue continues to be blocked.

Same-sex marriage is legal in England, Scotland, Wales and the Republic of Ireland – but Northern Ireland’s DUP has used peace powers to veto the issue despite a parliamentary majority in favour.

A marriage bill was passed last month by a vote of 53-52, only for the party to override the assembly using a ‘petition of concern’.

John Larkin QC today defended the country in a High Court case revolving around the ban.

In a lawsuit, a same-sex couple argued that Northern Ireland is in violation of human rights laws by refusing to recognise their marriage, having tied the knot in England in 2013.

The couple claim their marriage has been “demeaned, devalued and undermined”, under rules treating it as a civil partnership.
Northern Ireland attorney general: Same-sex marriage is a matter of ‘pure social policy’
They argue the ban breaches rights to privacy and family life, religious freedom and entitlement to marry under the European Convention on Human Rights.

Responding to the case today, Mr Larkin said that same-sex marriage should remain a devolved issue, and should not be forced across the UK.

He said: “It’s a matter of pure social policy … being a transferred matter it’s for the devolved administration and the Executive.”

The attorney general denied the rules discriminated against the couple by refusing to recognise their marriage as a marriage, adding: “It doesn’t matter, this is a general provision under which every same-sex marriage is for the purpose of the law in Northern Ireland treated as a civil partnership.”

The case continues.