Prime Minister Theresa May believes Northern Ireland should allow same sex marriage.
Writing for LGBT website Pink News, May stated that “marriage should be for everyone, regardless of their sexuality” and that the gay community of Northern Ireland “should have the same rights as people across the rest of the UK”.
The article was written to mark the 50th anniversary of the Sexual Offences Act. This law decriminalised homosexual acts between men over the age of 21 in England and Wales, which the Prime Minister described as a “cross-party breakthrough in the fight for equality”.
“My vision is of a world, at home and abroad, where there is no discrimination on the grounds of sexuality or gender identity.”
Despite these words of encouragement towards the LGBT community, the Conservative Party’s alliance with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) presents a significant obstacle to gay rights in the Province.
The DUP is staunchly opposed to granting marriage rights to same sex couples, even in the face of many calls for them to relent and several efforts by lawmakers to legalise it. In September, more than 20,000 people signed a petition demanding that Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) take action on this issue. The document condemned the DUP’s repeated use of the ‘petition of concern’ to prevent same sex marriage legislation being passed. This is a veto available to both unionist and nationalist MLAs in order to stop any proposed law they feel will not have enough support among either Protestants or Catholics.
However, May insisted that the agreement between the two parties following June’s snap general election “does nothing to weaken the Conservative Party’s commitment to LGBT+ equality and human rights” but did admit that gay marriage was “a matter for the devolved government of Northern Ireland”.
Read the Prime Minister’s full article here.
Photo of Theresa May courtesy of Chatham House via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence.