What Northern Ireland marriage equality vote means

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Photo: Love Equality/Twitter

British MPs have passed legislation that may finally bring marriage equality to Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK and Ireland where same-sex marriage is still illegal. The UK government passed marriage equality in 2013. Ireland legalised same-sex marriage in a 2015 referendum, becoming the first country in the world to do so by popular vote.

But Northern Ireland has its own, separate legislature. In January 2017, a dispute between the major parties caused the collapse of the Northern Ireland government.

The region has been without an Executive since then and Britain’s parliament has made key decisions in the interim.

Overnight, MP’s voted 383 to 73 to extend marriage equality to the region. In a separate amendment, MPs also voted 332 to 99 to legalise abortion in Northern Ireland.

But the legislation will only proceed if party negotiations fail to restore the region’s Executive by October 21.

If they do reach an agreement before the deadline, MP’s could either accept or invalidate the reform.

Equality advocates celebrate Northern Ireland vote

Labour MP Conor McGinn introduced the marriage equality amendment to an unrelated bill. He said lawmakers had failed LGBTIQ people in the region by delaying same-sex marriage.

“If they can’t make this law, we will make it here because rights delayed are rights denied,” he said.

Despite the uncertainty, advocacy group Stonewall cheered the vote as “a huge step forward for LGBT equality in the UK.”

“[It is] a tribute to those who have spent years building momentum and public support for equal marriage in Northern Ireland,” the group said.

Patrick Corrigan from Amnesty International and the Love Equality coalition said: “For more than five years, same-sex couples in the rest of the UK have been able to get married whilst this right has been denied to citizens in Northern Ireland.

“Now, in just three months’ time, we could see the first same-sex couples here tying the knot.”

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