The outdated ban on same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland must come to an end
Northern Ireland’s LGBT community has waited long enough for the right to marry the person they love. It is time that politicians dealt with this injustice, writes Conor McGinn
Thousands of people in the place where I was born and grew up are still denied the basic human right of marrying the person they love.
In England and Wales, equal marriage has been around since the Same Sex Couples Act 2013 paved the way for gay couples to wed. Scotland, France, Germany and Luxembourg have also legalised equal marriage.
But same-sex marriages are still banned in Northern Ireland, despite the Northern Ireland Assembly voting in favour of an equal marriage bill and broad support from a majority of the public in opinion polls.
Ideally, I would like to see to see the Northern Ireland Assembly working effectively and making the important decision to allow equal marriage.
But talks to revive the Assembly remain deadlocked, meaning decision-making has been put on hold for more than a year.
The move was blocked at Stormont by the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) even though the SDLP, the Alliance Party, Sinn Féin, the Green Party and other smaller parties all backed the plan.
I do not believe that LGBT couples in Northern Ireland should have to wait any longer for marriage between same-sex couples to be legal. I am convinced that the UK Government should introduce legislation now to end this injustice.
However, ministers have not given any commitment to change the law and while the Conservatives rely on the support of the DUP to stay in power, it’s hard to see that changing.
That is why I am introducing a Ten Minute Rule Bill at Westminster to allow same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland. The Northern Ireland Secretary of State, Karen Bradley, has confirmed to me that the Commons has the power to do this, and that the Conservative party will allow its MPs a free vote on the issue.
Labour's frontbench Northern Ireland team has backed my efforts, and I am confident the proposed new law will command the support of MPs from all parties.
I am working alongside the Love Equality campaign - a coalition of organisations in Northern Ireland - and MPs, peers and the wider LGBT community to introduce my Equal Marriage Bill for Northern Ireland on 28 March.
I hope and expect the Commons to be in favour of the bill, which will leave the Government with a political and moral duty to act and support legislation to end this discrimination.
However, LGBT people in Northern Ireland should not see their rights delayed by a parliamentary process that can knock backbench bills like this one-off track.
So, it is important the Government gets behind this change and makes sure that we end the outdated ban on same-sex marriage and bring Northern Ireland into line with the rest of the UK and Ireland.
Same-sex couples should not have to wait for the political impasse at Stormont to come to an end.
This is not about party politics or whether people who want to get married are gay or straight. It is about what is fair and what we need to do to make sure that everyone is treated equally.
Same-sex couples can get married across the rest of these islands - in Dublin, Edinburgh, Cardiff, London or my constituency of St Helens North. The same should apply to those living in Northern Ireland.
Northern Ireland’s LGBT community has waited long enough for the right to same-sex marriage.
It is time that politicians dealt with this injustice and said ‘yes’ to equality, dignity and the right of people in same-sex relationships to marry the person they love.
Conor McGinn is MP for St Helens North. His Ten Minute Rule Motion will be on Wednesday 28 March.