Delay to bill debates can be credited to Stormont limbo. 

Westminster will today debate an amendment to the Civil Partnerships Bill which would extend same-sex marriage legislation to Northern Ireland.

Conservative peer, Lord Hayward and Labour peer, Lord Collins of Highbury, have tabled an amendment to the Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths Bill, which would extend same-sex marriage to Northern Ireland, and will be debated in the House of Lords on Friday 1 March.

“Same-sex couples in Northern Ireland should not have to suffer inequality on the basis of their sexual orientation or the part of the country where they live," Lord Robert Hayward said ahead of Friday. 

“In the absence of devolved government in Northern Ireland, there are members on all sides and in both Houses of Parliament who want to get this matter resolved.

“Westminster has already passed Northern Ireland legislation in the absence of Stormont, so we know that we can and should address the issue of marriage equality.”

Northern Ireland has been without an Assembly and Executive for more than two years, which has stalled progress towards equal marriage in Northern Ireland.

Lord Hayward and Lord Collins’ amendment would bring same-sex marriage legislation to Northern Ireland, whilst including a clause that would give the Northern Ireland Assembly six months to overturn the equal marriage provision following the Bill becoming law, to allow for a possible return of devolved government.

Patrick Corrigan, Northern Ireland Programme Director at Amnesty International and a member of the Love Equality campaign for equal marriage in Northern Ireland, said:

“We know from our meetings at Westminster that there is cross-party support for equal marriage in Northern Ireland and a growing realisation that Stormont is not returning anytime soon.

“We hope the government will stand by the Secretary of State’s previous statement that this issue can be dealt with at Westminster and that it will be a free vote for members of the Government, so that same-sex couples in Northern Ireland can enjoy the same rights to marry as everyone else in the UK.”

Since St Valentine's Day 2019, over 3,000 people have written to Government Ministers via the Love Equality website urging them to support the amendment when it comes before the House of Lords today

In November 2015, members of the Northern Ireland Assembly voted to support equal marriage, but the measure was blocked by the Democratic Unionist Party which issued a Petition of Concern, a voting mechanism originally designed to protect the rights of minorities in Northern Ireland.

On 20 February 2018, Karen Bradley MP, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, said that Parliament can legislate for equal marriage in Northern Ireland in a written answer to Conor McGinn MP:

‘In accordance with the Belfast Agreement, [marriage] is a devolved matter which should be addressed in the NI Assembly; but the power of the Westminster Parliament to legislate remains unaffected. If this issue were to be raised in Westminster, the Government’s policy is to allow a free vote on matters of conscience such as equal marriage.’

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