Two NI MPs back equal marriage bill

Published Wednesday, 06 February 2013
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Two of Northern Ireland's MPs have voted to pass a bill which would see gay marriage become legal in England and Wales.

Two NI MPs back equal marriage bill
East Belfast Alliance MP Naomi Long voted in favour of equal marriage. (© UTV)

Alliance Party's Naomi Long and SDLP MP Mark Durkan both revealed they were in favour of the equal marriage bill at the House of Commons on Tuesday evening.

Ms Long, who represents the East Belfast constituency, said, "As a Christian and a liberal, I believe that equality and religious freedom are fundamental to a democratic society and that both must be promoted and protected, a position which is reflected in our policy and also in the bill."

She explained that she was encouraged by the government proposals to support faith groups who do not agree to same sex marriage.

"It is also important in the context of religious freedom, that those faith groups who wish, in conscience, to marry same sex couples are able to do so without being prevented by the state, something which is also contained in the Bill," she added.

"My continued support for the progress of this legislation will depend on the robustness of the protections which are finally established during its passage through Parliament."

Alliance adopted a policy in favour of the extension of civil marriage to same-sex couples, provided that robust protections were put in place to protect religious freedom and practice.

Naomi Long

Currently same sex couples can opt for civil partnership which offers the same legal rights and protections on issues such as inheritance, pensions, and child maintenance. However, supporters say gay relationships should be treated in exactly the same way as heterosexual ones.

But Ms Long voted against the Programme Motion, which sets out the timetable for the next stages of the bill, as she said she believes more time should be given to consider the issues raised.

The SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell and the party's former chief, Margaret Ritchie did not vote.

Nine local MPs, including DUP members Gregory Campbell, Nigel Dodds, Sammy Wilson, Rev William McCrea and Ian Paisley voted against.

Independent MP Lady Sylvia Hermon joined the DUP MPs Jeffrey Donaldson, Jim Shannon, and David Simpson in opposing the bill.

Following six hours of debate, the rest of the house voted overwhelmingly in favour of the on the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, which Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said it was a "landmark for equality".

"Marriage is about love and commitment, and it should no longer be denied to people just because they are gay," he commented.

Equality campaigners have welcomed the vote, which Equal Marriage NI chairperson, John O'Doherty described as a victory for decency.

"The tone of the debate in the House of Commons was overwhelmingly measured and respectful," he said.

What we saw in Westminster was a victory for equality and a victory for decency.

John O’Doherty

However Mr O'Doherty called for clarification over some terms of the bill, which will only apply to England and Wales.

"We do have concerns with the current version of the bill, particularly the provisions which mean that a couple legally married in England or Wales will have their relationship only recognised as a civil partnership in Northern Ireland," he explained.

"This would result in an untenable anomaly. As the bill enters committee stage we will seek to work closely with members of all parties and ensure that an amendment is introduced so that a couple married anywhere in the UK will be recognised as such everywhere in the UK."

For Prime Minister David Cameron, the bill split his party, with 136 Conservative MPs voting against equal marriage. He has been a driving force behind the cause of equal marriage rights, but 35 Tory representatives opted not to cast their vote, and just 127 revealed they are in favour of the same sex union.

However, Labour and the Liberal Democrat parties backed the bill in their majority.

The bill will now go forward to the House of Lords, where it is expected to face stiff opposition.

© UTV News
Comments Comments
Mark in Belfast wrote (724 days ago):
Excellent news, glad to hear it. No doubt the usual whining from religious fanatics who run the political parties here will mute it's breakthrough.
martin in belfast wrote (724 days ago):
for all you so called christians, why don't you just forgive MS long and Mr Durkin? Isn't that what god tells you to do? By failing to forgive, turn the other cheek, are you now sinning? Or do you only preach the parts of your bible that suit you.
jim in s'land wrote (724 days ago):
@steve in belfast..just aswell we don't live under Biblical Law then, isn't it?...' You must not eat of any animal in the water that does not have fins and scales." (Leviticus 11:9-12 even at heterosexual weddings you can't serve prawn cocktail as a starter. While the Bible, Koran and the 'Tibetan Book of the Dead' are all very interesting you shouldn't take them too seriously...lighten up, live and let live.
Ulysses32 in Belfast wrote (724 days ago):
And humans are the centre of scorn throughout Bradbury's Martian Chronicles, Steve. What's your point? I can't seem to reconcile your belief in a collection of tales that were cherrypicked by a pope hundreds of years after Jesus was allegedly born. Do you also believe that baby Jesus slew dragons or struck a child dead because he accidentally ran into him in the marketplace? Some interesting stories were dropped when editting the book for mind-control of the sheep.....
doire abu in doire wrote (724 days ago):
don't know what all the fuss is about - there is absolute equality!! no marriage, heterosexual or homosexual is valid unless it bound and blessed by God. so all civil partnerships are invalid
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