Two bills to enact same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland pass first reading in UK Parliament

By agency reporter
March 31, 2018

On 28 March 2018, the House of Commons passed a Ten Minute Rule Bill brought forward by Labour MP Conor McGinn to enact same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland, five years after same-sex couples were granted marriage equality in England and Wales. This means that the Bill will progress to the second reading stage. It follows the successful first reading of a similar private member’s bill in the House of Lords by Conservative peer Lord Haywood on 27 March. Humanists UK, who campaigned in favour of the Same-Sex Marriage Act 2013, have welcomed the introduction of these bills in both houses and expressed the hope that they progress through Parliament to the statue books.

Speaking in support of the Bill, Conor McGinn stated that there is strong support for same-sex marriage from both the public and most of the major political parties in Northern Ireland, and that in the absence of the Northern Ireland Legislative Assembly, Westminster must act. He stated that "this is not about people being nationalist or unionist, it is not even about people being gay or being married. It is about people being equal."

Although private members’ bills do not often progress through Parliament due to a lack of scheduled time for debate, they allow backbench MPs and peers to make their case for a cause and test the will of their House. Conor McGinn challenged any MP who opposes equal marriage in Northern Ireland to speak against his Bill and bring it to a vote. The Bill passed this stage without a vote or any MP speaking in opposition to it. The first reading of Lord Hayward’s Bill in the House of Lords was not accompanied by debate.

The lack of recognition in Northern Ireland for same-sex marriages conducted in the rest of the UK is being currently being challenged in the Court of Appeal in Belfast. The legal team bringing this case are also the team challenging the lack of legal recognition for humanist marriages in the country.

Humanists UK’s Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson commented, "The fact that both of these Bills have been introduced to Parliament is testament to the strong support for change within Northern Ireland. The realisation of marriage equality for the people of Northern Ireland is long overdue, and in the absence of a devolved administration able or willing to redress this injustice it is entirely appropriate that Westminster considers this issue. We believe that all people, whether LGBT, hetrosexual, humanist, or religious should be able to have a legally recognised marriage in a manner that reflects their worldview."

* Humanists UK https://humanism.org.uk/


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