A Labour MP has tabled an amendment to try to push the government into altering the law to permit same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland, the only part of the UK where it is still not allowed.
Conor McGinn’s amendment applies to the civil partnerships, marriages and deaths bill, which reaches the committee stage, where MPs can table amendments, on Wednesday.
A section of the government bill calls for an official report into how the law could be changed to achieve equality between same-sex couples and other couples in terms of civil partnerships and marriage. However, this would only cover England and Wales.
McGinn’s amendment would extend this report to Northern Ireland as well as Scotland.
Same-sex marriage exists in England, Wales and Scotland, as well as the Republic of Ireland. The government says it is a devolved matter for the Northern Ireland executive, but this has been suspended for more than 18 months.
The current impasse mirrors the situation with abortion in Northern Ireland, where it remains illegal except in exceptional circumstances, with far greater restrictions than in other parts of the UK.
Campaigners and Labour have pressured the government to act after Ireland liberalised its abortion laws in May following a referendum, but here also Theresa May and her ministers have insisted it is a matter for the power-sharing executive.
The power-sharing executive was suspended, along with the devolved assembly, in January 2017 in the wake of a botched green heating subsidy scheme championed by the Democratic Unionist party , which is estimated to have probably cost taxpayers about £500m.
McGinn, who represents St Helens North but who was born in County Armagh, tabled a private member’s bill earlier this year seeking to permit same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland, but it was blocked on second reading.
Conor McGinn: ‘Warms words about support for equality will ring hollow to those in Northern Ireland who are denied the basic right to marry the person they love.’ Photograph: PAHe said the government should accept his amendment: “Each day that passes is another day without equality for LGBT couples in Northern Ireland. I am very clear it is a fully functioning, devolved, administration that should consider and implement same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland – and Stormont even voted in favour of this in 2015. But the assembly has been mothballed and there aren’t even any talks taking place at the minute about its re-establishment.
“Without any solid proposals for changing the law after my bill to do so was blocked by one Tory backbencher, government ministers’ warm words about support for equality will ring hollow to those in Northern Ireland who are denied the basic right to marry the person they love.”
During a recent urgent question in the Commons on the issue, Penny Mordaunt, the international development secretary, whose brief also covers equalities, said she hoped to make progress on the issue.
“I am aware that I have a number of issues in my in-tray as equalities minister, civil partnerships and equal marriage in Northern Ireland being just two of them,” she said. “We have private member’s bills before the House, and we must resolve the issues, and I will examine what I can do to support that.”