MPs have voted in favour of amendments which could see the UK government liberalise abortion laws and extend same-sex marriage to Northern Ireland.
Politicians on Tuesday (July 9) overwhelmingly backed proposals for the government to legislate for same-sex marriage and bring abortion laws in-line with international human rights conventions if devolution is not restored by 21 October.
The vote does not automatically change the laws in Northern Ireland – where same-sex marriage is not legal and neither is abortion, except in limited circumstances.
Both proposals also allow a caveat for Stormont, the province’s devolved assembly which has been suspended for two-and-a-half-years, to amend or overturn the laws in future.
These amendments were discussed as part of a wider debate on the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill, which aims to set out how the province will be kept running in the absence of its devolved government.
Labour MPs Conor McGinn and Stella Creasy tabled the amendments. Image Credit: Parliament TV.
‘Tonight, We Have The Chance To Do The Right Thing’
Labour MP Conor McGinn, originally from south Armargh, put forward the same-sex marriage amendment, which was backed 383 to 73.
“This is really serious and it needs to be addressed. This house has failed LGBT people in Northern Ireland before,” he said.
“It failed a generation of people in Northern Ireland by not decriminalising homosexuality, and condemned them to discrimination, to abuse and to living in fear many years after that stopped being the case in the rest of the UK.
“It failed people in Northern Ireland by not extending same-sex marriage when it became the law here, making people in Northern Ireland less valued than the rest of us.
“Tonight, we have the chance to do the right thing.”
Same-sex marriage was legalised in England and Wales in 2013 and in Scotland a year later. The Republic of Ireland legalised same-sex marriage in May 2015 following a referendum.
Human rights delayed is human rights denied.
Stella Creasy, Labour MP for Walthamstow
The abortion amendment, put forward by Labour colleague Stella Creasy, was passed with 332 votes to 99.
“The way we are treating women in Northern Ireland is torturous,” Ms Creasy told the Commons.
“Human rights delayed is human rights denied,” she added.
Passage Of The Bill
MPs continue to debate a number of other amendments to the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill, matters they argue should not be delayed due to the lack of devolution.
The main purpose of the bill is to extend the government’s legal power to delay a fresh Stormont election until October at earliest.
Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Karen Bradley told the Commons the bill would give the Stormont parties “more time and space” to reach a deal.