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Theresa May refuses to support attempt to legalise same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland

The prime minister was accused of "hiding behind the DUP" in the Commons on Wednesday (March 28).

2018-03-28

Theresa May has refused to support a renewed attempt to legalise same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland. 

A private member's bill proposing that same-sex marriage be made legal in Northern Ireland was introduced to the House of Commons today (March 28).

The Northern Ireland Assembly hasn't functioned in more than a year since the power-sharing agreement fell apart at the end of 2016, meaning Westminster has the opportunity to introduce the legislation directly. 

However, it looks like the bill will not be getting the support of the government after Theresa May insisted it was a "devolved" matter for Northern Ireland to decide.

May's minority Conservative government is currently being propped up at Westminster by Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) as part of a £1bn deal.

The DUP are opposed to marriage equality and have consistently blocked attempts to overturn the ban on same-sex marriage and bring Northern Ireland in line with the rest of the UK.

Labour MP Ged Killen told the prime minister in the Commons: "LGBT rights in Northern Ireland are in limbo. The assembly has already voted for equal marriage and public support for it is overwhelming.

"Will the prime minister stop hiding behind the DUP and will she take the opportunity to put her support on record for the Bill being brought forward?"

The prime minister, however, insisted the issue was for Northern Ireland to decide, saying: "This is an issue that we have taken up, it is an issue we have championed.

"We hope that there will be a Northern Ireland executive in place soon that will be able to address these issues. The power of the Westminster Parliament to legislate remains unaffected."

 

Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK and Ireland that doesn't allow equal marriage, despite polls indicating overwhelming public support.

Same-sex marriage was legalised in England and Wales in July 2013, and in Scotland in February 2014.

Just over a year later, in May 2015, the Republic of Ireland became the first country in the world to end the ban on marriage equality in a national referendum on the issue.

The news comes after a similar piece of legislation put before the House of Lords by a Conservative peer, Lord Hayward, passed its first stage on Tuesday (March 27).