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Northern Ireland assembly rejects motion calling for same-sex marriage

The nationalist parties and three UUP members backed the motion, which was opposed by the two main unionist parties.

Frankie Dean, from Fermanagh, joined protestors at Parliament buildings Stormont as a call for same sex couples to be given the right to marry in Northern Ireland was defeated.
Frankie Dean, from Fermanagh, joined protestors at Parliament buildings Stormont as a call for same sex couples to be given the right to marry in Northern Ireland was defeated.
Image: Paul Faith/PA Wire

THE NORTHERN IRELAND assembly has rejected a motion which would have called for full marriage equality for same-sex couples in Northern Ireland – with near unanimous rejection of the move from unionist members.

The motion – tabled by the Northern Ireland branch of the Green Party, and backed by Sinn Féin – was defeated by 50 votes to 45, with votes largely split down party lines as both the Democratic Unionist Party and the Ulster Unionist Party voted against the motion.

The Guardian recounts that both unionist parties had come under pressure from Protestant churches to oppose the motion, with the presbyterian church saying the issue was “a very significant one for the whole of society”.

Only three Unionist members – each of them from the UUP – opted to support the motion, as did four of the seven MLAs from the non-aligned Alliance Party.

Speaking on the motion the DUP’s Sammy Wilson, the Minister for Finance and Personnel in the executive, made it clear he was personally opposed to gay marriage.

“I have no intention of bringing forward any legislation to this House to facilitate gay marriage. I believe that, in doing that, I am reflecting the general view in society in Northern Ireland,” he said.

Green MLA Steven Agnew, tabling the motion, said there was “absurdity” in the current law.

“An atheist couple of different sex may, if they choose, have a religious ceremony, yet a devout Christian couple who happen to be of the same sex cannot even have hymns played or have any religious overtones to their civil partnership, if they choose to go down that line,” he said.

Unionist members had previously lodged a ‘petition of concern’, a device in the Stormont assembly which forces motions to gain the support of a majority of members from both the nationalist and unionist sides.

As it happened the petition was not needed, as the motion was defeated by an outright majority.

Read: Australian parliament votes down proposal for same-sex marraige

More: Dublin City Council votes ‘Yes’ to marriage equality

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Gavan Reilly

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