Exclusive: Theresa May says LGBT people in Northern Ireland should have equal marriage rights

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Prime Minister Theresa May has expressed her personal support for equal marriage in Northern Ireland.

The Prime Minister penned an op-ed for PinkNews today to mark the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality.

The Conservative leader used the piece to address the ongoing ban on same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland, where progress has been blocked in the devolved assembly by the Democratic Unionist Party.

Writing for PinkNews, Mrs May affirmed: “I want all British citizens to enjoy the fullest freedoms and protections. That includes equal marriage – because marriage should be for everyone, regardless of their sexuality.

“And while that is a matter for the devolved government of Northern Ireland, I will continue to make my position clear – that LGBT+ people in Northern Ireland should have the same rights as people across the rest of the UK.”

She adds: “My vision is of a world, at home and abroad, where there is no discrimination on the grounds of sexuality or gender identity.”

The comments may rile the Democratic Unionist party, just weeks after the Conservatives entered into a fragile confidence-and-supply agreement with the party in Westminster.

The DUP is strongly opposed to LGBT equality, and continues to employ peace process powers to override democratic votes in favour of equal marriage in the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Following the deal with the party, Mrs May has made assurances to her own party that there will be no backslide on equality issues.

Democratic Unionist Party leader Arlene Foster previously insisted gay people don’t really want to get married anyway.

The DUP did not respond to a request for comment.

During a separate interview this afternoon with LBC’s Iain Dale, May defended the nature of the Tories’ agreement with the DUP, arguing that it was “important that the country has a government that has a majority.”

The Prime Minister promised that the confidence-and-supply deal would not negatively affect the government’s actions, saying: “We will continue to push on LGBT rights.”

May emphasised that she was opposed to the DUP when it came to its views on same-sex marriage, same-sex adoption and blood donation.

“We don’t agree with them on their approach to same-sex marriage, and I’m very clear that the Conservative Party in government doesn’t agree with the DUP on those issues on LGBT rights,” she said.

“We will continue to push forward, to enhance LGBT rights and we’re pleased what we’ve been able to do so far, and we want to do more.

“That won’t be changed by our relationship with the DUP, which of course isn’t a formal coalition.”

Even though she said she opposed many of the DUP’s stances on LGBT rights, May said it was worth making a deal with the party to form a more powerful government.

“What I think is important is, if you look back on what happened after the election, we were the only party who could form a government,” the Prime Minister said.

“And there was a responsibility to the country to ensure that it has a government, and a government that can put legislation through.”

The Prime Minister did not address Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s call for the government to formally apologise to men with historical gay sex convictions.

The Labour leader was speaking at a PinkNews Parliamentary Reception yesterday to mark 50 years since the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in England and Wales.

In recent years the government has rolled out a system to allow men with historical gay sex convictions to have their convictions disregarded and to receive a pardon.

But though the Leader of the Opposition welcomed this move, he asked: “Why would we seek a pardon for something that should never have been a crime in the first place?

“They deserve an apology, an apology for everything that went on.”