January 2020 ‘deadline’ for same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland

An expected amendment to Northern Ireland Bill being tabled on Tuesday (July 16) will set a January 2020 deadline for a new same-sex marriage law to come into force.

On July 9, MPs voted overwhelmingly in favour in support of changing the law on 21 October 2019 if the devolved Northern Ireland Executive has not been re-established by that date.

The latest amendment to the bill will set a strict deadline to ensure all the necessary regulatory changes take place within three months of this clause coming into effect — in comparison to the eight months it took when same-sex marriage became law in England and Wales.

Campaigners hoping for “New Year wedding bells”

Campaigners for marriage equality in Northern Ireland are pleased with the short implementation period being proposed and are hoping it will mean “New Year wedding bells” for LGBT+ couples.

Patrick Corrigan, Northern Ireland director of Amnesty International, said: “We are confident that the necessary changes can be made within three months from the equal marriage clause coming into legal effect on October 21. This is a significant improvement on the more than eight months that were required for implementation in England and Wales.

“An amendment is being introduced to the Bill today by Lord Hayward which we believe fully addresses the questions that Government ministers have raised about the implementation period and human rights compatibility.

“We are looking forward to New Year wedding bells in Northern Ireland.”

We can say that equal marriage for Northern Ireland is now within touching distance.

The bill is being tabled by Lord Hayward, a Conservative Peer who was named Politician of the Year at the 2018 PinkNews awards along with the Labour MP Conor McGinn.

Hayward said he expects the bill to have widespread support in both Houses.

He said: “We have work to finish in both Houses of Parliament in the days ahead, but we can say that equal marriage for Northern Ireland is now within touching distance.”

The move is expected to cause friction with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), who announced an amendment on Monday (July 15) which would give people the “freedom to discriminate” against LGBT+ people if same-sex marriage is passed into law.