Labour MP to table Bill at Westminster to extend same-sex marriage to Northern Ireland

Labour MP to table Bill at Westminster to extend same-sex marriage to Northern Ireland

A Labour MP is to table a Private Members Bill at Westminster proposing the extension of same-sex marriage to Northern Ireland.

Conor McGinn, who is originally from Co. Armagh, plans to introduce a Ten Minute Rule Bill on the issue at the end of March.

The MP for St Helens in Merseyside said people in Northern Ireland “can’t wait for their basic rights any longer”.

He wants Westminster to take action given the current political impasse in the North, with the Bill expected to be introduced on March 28.

Speaking on the BBC’s Daily Politics programme, Mr McGinn said: “My preference would be for a fully-functioning power-sharing Executive and Assembly to do this but people can't wait for their basic rights any longer.

“And that’s why I’ve take the decision, along with my colleagues in the Labour Party and others I’m sure, to push through this at Westminster.”

There have been five attempts to introduce same-sex marriage through the Northern Ireland Assembly.

The latest vote in November 2015 was the first to receive a majority vote in favour, but was blocked by a DUP petition of concern.

'It's about people being equal'

Asked if handing the decision to Westminster would have repercussions in the North, Mr McGinn refuted suggestions the matter was a sectarian issue.

He also said that the DUP can’t complain if Westminster acts on equal marriage, given they have themselves called for direct rule while the stalemate in the North continues.

“This is not about people being Unionist or Nationalist, it’s not even about people being gay or being married, it’s about people being equal,” said Mr McGinn.

“If my constituents of the same sex who love their partner can get married in St Helens, if people can in Cardiff and in Edinburgh and in Dublin, then they should be able to do so in Belfast as well.”

Secretary of State Karen Bradley has said MPs would be given a free vote on the Bill and that the Conservative Party won't whip the vote “on matters of conscience such as equal marriage”.

Welcoming the move, Patrick Corrigan of the Love Equality campaign said: “We will be working to build support for the Bill from MPs across the UK and are confident of a convincing majority in favour.

“We now look to Parliament to uphold the rights of people in Northern Ireland and to respond to overwhelming public support here.

“However, the rights of LGBT people in Northern Ireland to be treated equally should not be left to the Private Members Bill process.

“We repeat our call on the UK Government to introduce legislation to bring Northern Ireland’s laws on marriage equality into line with the rest of the UK and Ireland.”