Northern Ireland lawmakers nix same-sex marriage


northern_ireland_votes_against_gay_marriageNorthern Ireland politicians have been accused of being out-of-touch with public opinion after they once again voted against same-sex marriage.

On Monday, a motion in the Northern Ireland Assembly supporting same-sex marriage was defeated after the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) lodged a Petition of Concern, meaning the proposal could only pass if a majority of both unionists and nationalists support it.

Ultimately, 49 MLAs (members of the legislative assembly) voted against the motion and 47 voted in favour, leaving the region as the only one in the UK without civil marriage rights for same-sex couples.

DUP MLA Peter Weir described the motion as “an attack on the symbolism of marriage and the institution of marriage and an attempt to redefine marriage.”

This is the fourth time in the past three years that attempts to legalise same sex marriage have been defeated in the assembly.

Amnesty International slammed the MLAs for “trying in vain to hold back the tide of equality.”

“Public opinion in Northern Ireland is now firmly on the side of legalisation of civil marriage for same-sex couples by a ratio of two-to-one,” said Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty International’s Northern Ireland Programme Director. “Yet, half of our politicians continue to oppose this equality measure, leaving Northern Ireland as a grim, discriminatory backwater for the gay community.”

Same-sex marriage is legal in England, Scotland and Wales and the neighbouring Republic of Ireland, which is not part of the UK, is holding a referendum on the issue next month.

“States may not discriminate with regards to the right to marry and found a family, on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity,” said Corrigan. “If politicians continue with their failure to address this inequality, then it is inevitable that the courts will be asked to intervene.”

There have been growing calls for Northern Ireland to hold a referendum on same-sex marriage, with more than 15,000 people signing a petition launched on Tuesday supporting such a move.

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