Conor McGinn MP has tabled an amendment to the Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths Bill during its Committee Stage hearing today (July 18), calling for an official Government report on how the law should be changed to bring about equal marriage between same-sex couples and other couples in terms of civil partnerships.
Mr McGinn’s amendment calls on the Government to extend the scope of this report to Northern Ireland, and to specifically set out what steps should be taken to change the law and has called on the Government to accept his new amendment as a way of clearly setting out how the law can change to deliver equality for same-sex couples in Northern Ireland, in line with the rest of the UK.
Patrick Corrigan, Northern Ireland Director of Amnesty International UK, said: “We can’t underestimate the importance of this amendment – it could be the start of Westminster finally treating same-sex couples in Northern Ireland as equal citizens.
“It’s so degrading to deny same-sex couples in Northern Ireland the opportunity to marry, whilst their neighbours and members of the LGBT+ community in every other part of the UK can enjoy this right. The Government must get behind this amendment and finally right this wrong.
“The vast majority of people and politicians in Northern Ireland want to see marriage equality in their country – Westminster now has a chance to make this happen.”
The call for marriage equality in Northern Ireland started with Love Equality NI who initially travelled to Westminster to table two Private Members' Bills in Parliament - with the help of McGinn.
The campaign was fronted by Attitude Pride Award 2018 winners Cara McCann and Amanda McGurk - a couple who have been fighting for marriage equality in their home country.
When the Northern Ireland Executive was up and running, it voted five times on the issue of equal marriage. The last time, in November 2015, the vote for equal marriage was won with 53 of the 105 votes.
“But the DUP [Democratic Unionist Party] blocked it using a mechanism called a Petition of Concern,” explained Cara.
“It’s really meant to be there as a protective mechanism, as part of the Good Friday Agreement, but they’re using it to discriminate.
“At that point, we just thought, ‘I would rather my own country legislate for me, but that’s not going to happen’. The next step was to bring it to London.”
Although the bills are still in progress and remain long way from receiving Royal Assent - if they get that far, given the DUP's current deal with the Conservative government in Westminster - Cara and Amanda’s efforts, alongside Love Equality NI, are helping to turn the tide.
“It’s sad,” mourns Cara. “We are losing people because it’s so backwards. LGBT+ people don’t want to stay in their own country.”
Cara and Amanda are set to tie the knot on Valentine's Day next year and, although it won't be recognised as a marriage, they say they simply can't wait any longer for the law to catch up.