Today the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Bill returns to the House of Commons for its report stage today and tomorrow with the third reading tomorrow.
While of course this Bill will only have direct effect on England and Wales, it combined with the Bill to allow marriage equality in Scotland does mean that just as we were with the decriminalisation of homosexual acts Northern Ireland will once again face lagging behind the rest of the UK. The sad thing of course is that on both of the occasions that marriage equality has been discussed in the chamber at Stormont it is the parties that most want to protect the Britishness of Northern Ireland the DUP and UUP who have been the ones who voted overwhelmingly to prevent it.
I’m sure that over the next two days some of the DUP MPs will stand up either as interventions or to speak in the debate itself urging MPs not to allow this change in England and Wales. They will argue that the Bill will have an adverse effect on Northern Ireland, something that we agree it will but not for the same reasons.
Just as before Jeff Dudgeon won his European Court case to have the criminalisation of homosexual acts lifted in Northern Ireland many gay young men joined the exodus out of Northern Ireland, so they will do soon to get married. The failure of the DUP to even contemplate recognising same-sex marriages carried out elsewhere in the UK as such but only call them civil partnerships, shows that they think that same sex relationships are not equivalent no matter what the jurisdiction under which they are solemnised says they are.
However, also sadly lacking is any comment on the lack of parity in Northern Ireland on this issue from the high-profile LGBT campaigners Peter Tatchell and Stonewall. The first today has been very vocal in supporting Civil Partnerships for couple of opposite sexes, but I have yet to hear him address comments to Northern Ireland. As those of us in Northern Ireland are aware Stonewall’s jurisdiction seems to not cover the T and barely the B in LGBT issues, but also their Twitter name StonewallUK is a misnomer as they fail to reach across the Irish Sea in giving support, but will happily take it.
We in Northern Ireland need national bodies to recognise that LGBT rights here are not being taken forward, something that as Liberal Democrats we can ensure through our national LGBT+ organisation but others need to help our voice be heard.