Peer in fresh move to lift same-sex marriage ban in Northern Ireland

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By Cate McCurry, Press Association

A Conservative peer has launched a fresh attempt to legislate for same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland.

An amendment to the Civil Partnerships Bill will be debated in the House of Lords this Friday.

Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom or Republic of Ireland which maintains a ban on marriage for same-sex couples.

Lord Robert Hayward, who introduced a Private Member's Bill on the issue last year, has tabled an amendment to the Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths Bill, which would extend same-sex marriage to Northern Ireland.

Local politicians have not been able to vote on the issue because Northern Ireland has been without an Assembly and Executive for more than two years.

Lord Hayward's amendment would bring same-sex marriage legislation to Northern Ireland, while including a clause that would give the Northern Ireland Assembly six months to overturn the equal marriage provision following the Bill becoming law, to allow for a scenario where the devolved government resumes.

Lord Hayward said: "This amendment respects the role of Stormont, but also recognises the reality that those devolved institutions are not currently functioning.

"Same-sex couples in Northern Ireland should not be asked to wait indefinitely for equality with the rest of the UK. It is time for Westminster to put right that wrong."

Campaigners in Northern Ireland have welcomed the move.

Patrick Corrigan, Northern Ireland programme director at Amnesty International and a member of the Love Equality campaign for equal marriage, said: "This is a welcome move from Lord Hayward.

"More than two years after the collapse of Northern Ireland's devolved government, we need legislators at Westminster to secure equal marriage for all.

"If Stormont returns we are happy to continue our work with MLAs across the parties to change the law, but meanwhile, equality can't wait."

In November 2015, members of the Northern Ireland Assembly voted to support equal marriage, but the measure was blocked by the DUP - using a device called the "petition of concern".

Amnesty's petition which calls on Prime Minister Theresa May to introduce a Bill to legalise equal marriage in Northern Ireland has more than 35,000 signatures.

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