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Northern Ireland same-sex marriage bill passes first stage in House of Lords

Northern Ireland remains the only part of the UK where same-sex marriage is still banned.

Participants pass city Hall as they take part in Belfast's annual Pride parade.
Participants pass city Hall as they take part in Belfast's annual Pride parade.
Image: Brian Lawless via PA Images

A BILL CALLING for same-sex marriage to be legalised in Northern Ireland has passed its first parliamentary stage in the House of Lords.

Northern Ireland remains the only part of the UK where same-sex marriage is still banned. It was legalised in England and Wales in July 2013, and Scotland in February 2014.

The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) (Northern Ireland) bill was tabled by Conservative Robert Hayward, in the form of a private members’ bill, yesterday.

Speaking to BBC’s Evening Extra programme, Hayward said that he hoped “in one form or another, to get this into law”.

“It was a clear indication in the Lords this afternoon – normally when you introduce a private members’ bill, it’s received with silence,” Hayward said.

There was audible ‘hear, hear’ from all sides of the chamber, which indicates it’s a general view.

“The chamber was overwhelmingly in support and the message is absolutely clear – that most people, politicians of all sides and crossbenchers who are of no side – take the view that equality is not something you can pick and choose on around the United Kingdom,” he said.

“It should apply to all parts of the UK.”

Members of the House of Lords will now have the opportunity to make their opinions on the proposed bill known during its second reading.

The decision on whether to legalise same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland would normally be decided by the Northern Ireland Assembly in Stormont, however that collapsed over a year ago.

The issue of marriage equality has been a central sticking point in the talks to restore power-sharing in Stormont, with Sinn Féin calling for it to be legalised and DUP strongly opposed.

Speaking during his trip to Washington DC earlier this month, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said same-sex marriage should be allowed in Northern Ireland.

“For me, any rights of freedom that the British have in Britain, that the Irish have in Ireland, the people in Northern Ireland should have as well,” Varadkar said.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said last month that when a deal for power-sharing was on the table, marriage equality was not included in the so-called “draft” agreement.

Speaking at the event in Washington, McDonald said the people in Northern Ireland should have freedom of equality – and this should include marriage equality.

Read: Varadkar calls for marriage equality in the North during Washington speech

More: McDonald: ‘Three language acts were included in draft DUP deal, but no agreement on marriage equality’

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