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A chance for change: equal marriage in Northern Ireland

After the Supreme Court announced that only allowing same-sex couples to enter into civil partnerships is unlawful, we celebrated the fact that the Minister for Women and Equalities, Rt Hon Penny Mordaunt MP, took swift action and announced that the Government will extend civil partnerships to all, rather than abolish this important institution.

Tomorrow, the House of Lords will be examining the Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths (Registration Etc.) Bill, which could (among other things) make this commitment a reality and allow different-sex couples to enter into a civil partnership.

The session tomorrow also comes with the opportunity to address a significant inequality for LGBT people.

The session tomorrow also comes with the opportunity to address a significant inequality for LGBT people, by extending same-sex civil marriage to Northern Ireland.  

Support for a change in the law is at an all-time high, with a poll from Sky Data showing that 76 per cent of the Northern Irish public are in favour of legalising equal marriage. Business leaders also recognise the importance the importance of supporting their LGBT staff and last year, major employers added their voices to support the Love Equality campaign.

And the same can be said of the Northern Ireland’s politicians, with at least 55 of the 90 Members of the Legislative Assembly publicly voicing their support.

However, since Stormont has now been absent for over two years, only legislation from Westminster can bring about a change in the law.

That’s why Lord Hayward and Lord Collins of Highbury, two longstanding advocates of LGBT equality, have tabled at amendment to the Civil Partnerships Bill, which, if successful, would extend equal civil marriage to Northern Ireland. The amendment also allows the Northern Ireland Assembly to support the change in law or choose to reverse it, if Stormont returns within six months of the Bill becoming law.

We’re proud to stand with our partners at the Love Equality campaign. 

We’re proud to stand with our partners at the Love Equality campaign and support this amendment. Equality is well overdue and it’s time that LGBT people in Northern Ireland should be able to celebrate and formalise their relationships in the same way as every other part of the UK.

We’re also supporting another important amendment, tabled by Lord Faulker, Lord Collins of Highbury and Stonewall co-founder, Lord Cashman.

This second amendment would remove the existing exemption for clergy under the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013. This wouldn’t mean that the Church of England has to hold marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples. Instead, it means that the Church would be able to do so in the future, without needing Parliament to change existing law.

These amendments could lead to a historic moment for LGBT equality in the UK. We’ll be watching closely tomorrow.