Government stresses gay marriage is NI issue
The government has emphasised that legalising gay marriage is a Northern Irish matter, as the issue was debated by MPs in London today.
It came up during discussion of the Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths (Registration Etc) Bill – which essentially aims to extend civil partnerships to straight couples (at the moment, they are only available to gay people).
As the bill, proposed by Tory MP Tim Loughton, came before a Westminster Public Bill Committee hearing, NI-born Labour MP Conor McGinn and party colleague Gareth Thomas moved to amend it.
The bill calls for the minister for women and equalities to carry out a report into reforming the current system of marriages and civil partnerships; however, such a report would only cover England and Wales.
The Labour amendments sought to have Northern Ireland considered too.
But Victoria Atkins MP, speaking for the government, said that “both civil partnership and marriage are devolved matters ... it has to be a matter for the NI Assembly”, adding that she hopes this can reconvene “as soon as possible”.
In the end, the Labour amendments were not included.
Afterwards, Mr McGinn said it had been “an opportunity for the government to show it wanted to end the discrimination faced every day by LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) couples in Northern Ireland”, and that “my amendment would merely have laid the ground for a government report on how the law should be changed, but ministers could not even accept this”.