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Same-sex marriages (SSM) and civil
partnerships in Northern Ireland:

Part 3


2014: Reactions to the failed third
attempt to attain marriage equality.
Polls indicate the mood of the public.
2019: MPs pass SSM bill in Legislature.

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This topic is continued from the previous essay

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2014-APR: Reactions to the failed third attempt to attain marriage equality in Northern Ireland.

  • Patrick Corrigan, program director for Amnesty International in Northern Ireland, said:

    "States may not discriminate with regards to the right to marry and found a family on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. "That obligation is clear in international law. This means that marriage should be available to same-sex couples in Northern Ireland, just as it is now in England and Wales and will shortly be in Scotland. ... With politicians continuing to block equality, it is now inevitable that same-sex couples in Northern Ireland will take a legal challenge on the basis of inferior treatment with regards to the right to marry and found a family." 1

  • Webmaster's comment in 2014 [Bias alert]:

    With three out of three attempts having failed to proceed with marriage equality, it would seem that the courts are the best option now available to the LGBT community. Otherwise, couples will continue to be denied the status, respect, and stability that is associated with marriage. Also, the UK would end up with couples changing status from married to not married just by crossing one of its internal borders.

    With England, Wales and Scotland having achieved marriage equality, and with all other major English-speaking countries having done the same (except for Australia and parts of the United States) it seems inevitable that Northern Ireland will soon achieve marriage equality perhaps through the legislature or more likely via the judicial path which has proven to be very successful in the U.S.

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What does the Northern Ireland public think of same-sex marriage?

Many public opinion polls have been conducted. They show a gradual rise in the acceptance of same-sex marriage:

  • 1989: An unidentified poll found that 76% of Northern Ireland adults believed that same-sex relationships were "always wrong." 2

  • 2012: The Northern Ireland Life & Times (NILT) poll found that only 28% of the public believed that such relationships were wrong. 2 The poll's sample size was 1,200 people. Thus, the margin of error would have been close to ±2.9% percentage points. That means that, if the same poll had been repeated 20 times, the results would be expected to be between 25 and 31% for 19 times out of the 20 tries.

  • 2013-JUN-06: The Northern Ireland Life & Times conducted another poll, asking a specific question about same-sex marriage:

    "Do you think marriages between same-sex couples should or should not be recognized by the law as valid, with the same rights as traditional marriages?"

    Results were: 57% favored marriage equality; 32% were opposed; 11% were undecided or unresponsive. Northern Ireland by mid-2013 was ahead of the U.S. in terms of acceptance of SSM. As with polls in the U.S.:

    • A larger percentage of women favored SSM than men.

    • A larger percentage of younger adults favored SSM when compared to seniors. This included support from 72% of young adults aged 18 to 24; and 74% of older adults 25 to 34.

    • Greatest support came from those who were not religiously affiliated at 73%; Catholics were 65% in favor of equality; Protestants were 44% supportive. 3

  • 2014-FEB-05 and later: The ISideWith web site conducts polls on the Internet to estimate public opinion. 4 They ran a poll for residents of Northern Ireland asking the question:

    "Do you support the legalization of same sex marriage?"

    The polling opened on 2014-FEB-05 and was still collecting data on 2014-MAY-03. Results on the latter date were 76% in favor of marriage equality and 23% opposed to same-sex marriage. This polling agency filters out the votes coming from outside the country and also filters out duplicate votes. So it has considerably more credibility compared to the next poll.

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  • 2014-APR-29: The Belfast Telegraph conducted a poll of somewhat limited accuracy on their web site. They asked the question: "Should gay marriage be legalized in Northern Ireland?"

Results were: 78% favored marriage equality; 21% were opposed; 2% were undecided. 5 Unfortunately, there is no way to know whether those who vote were a truly random sample of the public. Also, Internet surfers who do not reside in Northern Ireland may have voted. However, their results are reasonably credible because they agree closely with the ISideWith poll.

  • 2016-JUN-29: David Young, writing for the Belfast Telegraph, reported that the polling agency Ipsos MORI conducted a survey during 2016-MAY among 1,029 people in Northern Ireland who were 16 years-of-age or older. 6 They were asked the question:

    "To what extent do you agree with this statement: Homosexual couples should be allowed to marry each other."

    This is a rise of 2 percentage points from their previous poll in 2015. The poll's margin of error was about ±3%.

Among those aged 16 to 34, support was 85%! Among all females, support was 77%.

There was a noticeable faith-based split: 80% of Catholics and 60% of Protestants supported marriage equality.

There were also major differences with different political party affiliation: Support was 83% among the Alliance Party, 80% among Sinn Fein, 76% among SDLP, 62% among UUP and 50% among DUP.7

John O'Doherty, spokesperson for Love Equality -- a pro-LGBT non-profit agency in Northern Ireland, said:

"This poll demonstrates that not only is there overwhelming support for marriage equality in Northern Ireland, but that support is only increasing over time.

It is clear that the people of Northern Ireland agree with us that marriage equality is one of the defining civil rights issues of our time and that it should immediately be made law.

Those who continue to prevent marriage equality in Northern Ireland are not going to succeed. All they are doing before its inevitable introduction are merely enacting an injustice against their own citizens and worsening Northern Ireland's already abysmal reputation regarding LGBT rights." 6

The percentage of persons polled who oppose marriage equality dropped by 5 percentage points to 22%; the percentage who did not have an opinion or who refused to answer increased by 2 percentage points to 8%. That itself is an interesting development because it may demonstrate that a significant percentage of people are in the process of changing their minds and drifting towards support.

  • 2018-APR: Sky Data poll on same-sex marriage: Sky Data conducted a poll on public support of same-sex marriage. Results were: 76% favored marriage equality; this is an increase of eight percentage points since a poll in 2015, 18% are opposed to same-sex marriage. 6% had no opinion or did not answer. Support for marriage equality in Northern Ireland is significantly greater than in the U.S.

Patrick Corrigan of Amnesty International and also of the Love Equality campaign said:

"We welcome this huge and ever-growing level of support for marriage equality in Northern Ireland. Whatever else people in Northern Ireland may remain divided on, it is clearly not marriage equality. We are calling on the UK Government to recognize this huge public support for change. With no functioning devolution at Stormont, it is now time for the UK Government to legislate to bring Northern Ireland into line with the rest of the UK and Ireland and to end discrimination against the LGBT+ community."

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2018-OCT: Two Labour backbenchers in the UK Parliament launch bill to legalize same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland:

Nick Duffy, writing for Pink News, said:

"The Northern Ireland executive collapsed in January 2017 due to a breakdown in the power-sharing agreement between the ... [Democratic Unionist Party] (DUP) and Sinn Féin [parties]. The Northern Ireland Assembly and executive have been suspended ever since.

With no future agreement in sight, LGBT+ campaigners in Northern Ireland say the onus is on the UK government and the Irish government to secure an equal marriage settlement." 10

With movement on marriage equality in the Northern Ireland government stalled, two members of the UK Parliament (MPs) -- Stella Creasy and Conor McGinn -- initiated a equal rights amendment. Rather than simply repealed the measure that banned same-sex marriages, the amendment directs the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Karen Bradley to:

"... issue guidance [to Northern Ireland government departments specifying] how to exercise their functions in relation to the incompatibility of the human rights of the people of Northern Ireland with [the region’s laws on marriage and abortion access].

The bill was passed by the UK House of Commons by a vote of 207 to 117, a 64% affirmative vote. 102 Conservative MPs, nine DUParty MPs and four Labour MPs rejected the amendment. Half of the MP's did not vote because little notice was given in advance of the vote.

Patrick Corrigan, the Northern Ireland Programme Director for Amnesty International, said in a statement:

"[The UK] Parliament has spoken this evening and the government must listen.

The government should now provide proper legislative time to the Private Members’ Bills sponsored by Diana Johnson and Conor McGinn which are currently working their way through Parliament. Without that support, people in Northern Ireland will continue to live as second-class citizens within the UK.

We want to pay tribute to all the MPs from a range of parties across Westminster who backed this move and to [MPs] Stella Creasy and Conor McGinn for their leadership in the Commons."

Grainne Teggart, the Northern Ireland Campaign Manager for Amnesty International, said:

"People in Northern Ireland are being denied rights enjoyed by those in other parts of the UK on issues such as marriage equality and access to abortion.

This Commons vote is a significant step toward ensuring that people in Northern Ireland can access those rights as equal citizens. It is clear there is a strong cross party constituency of support at Westminster for change.

Women in Northern Ireland are suffering under the current legislative regime. That suffering must be brought to an end and it is within the power of the government to do so. It is time for Government to end the inequity citizens here face. Our work will continue until that happens." 8,9,10

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2019-JUL-09: Members of the Northern Ireland Parliament vote overwhelmingly in favor of marriage equality:

The MPs voted 383 to 73 in favor of a bill to extend marriage to same-sex couples in Northern Ireland. Seventeen MPs abstained from voting. Those voting against the bill included 64 members of the Conservative party, eight from the Democratic Unionist Party, and one cabinet minister.

Patrick Corrigan is the Northern Ireland director of Amnesty International and part of the Love Equality coalition. He said:

"This is an incredible moment and a huge cause for celebration. Marriage equality in Northern Ireland is finally a reality. ... For more than five years, same-sex couples in the rest of the UK have been able to get married whilst this right has been denied to citizens in Northern Ireland. Now, in just three months’ time, we could see the first same-sex couples here tying the knot. So many people have been campaigning for this for so long. At points it seemed unachievable, but we never gave up. Today’s a day for the history books." 11

Mordaunt tweeted:

"Proud to have supported this amendment which passed with a majority of 310. Every citizen of the UK should be able to marry who they love. The fact that people in Northern Ireland have been unable to has torn at the social fabric of our country." 12

An unidentified Pink News writer indicated that marriage equality there is not "a reality" yet." They wrote:

"The clause will require secondary legislation, and will only come into force if power-sharing talks fail to restore devolution by October 21.
Should the Stormont executive become functional by this deadline, the amendment will become void." 12

However, there was a change in plans. The British government announced on 2019-SEP-09 that the legislation will come into effect on 2020-JAN-13. Since couples have to wait for 28 days after they file their notice of intention before they can actually marry, this means that the first couples will be able to marry on 2020-FEB-14 -- appropriately, on St. Valentine's Day!

Patrick Corrigan, director of Amnesty International for Northern Ireland, said:

"We are now working closely with government ministers and officials to ensure that the legislative obligations are met, in time and in full, so that couples here can start to enjoy the same rights as elsewhere in the UK and Ireland. ... We now look forward to the sound of Valentine’s Day wedding bells."

Lord Duncan, the Northern Ireland Office parliamentary under secretary of state, said:.

"What we have to ensure is that wherever the law mentions ‘husband and wife’ and ‘man and woman’ it has to be corrected to reflect the change. We’re working to identify all areas where legacy language exists. The legislation impacted by this covers pensions, benefits and so on. We want to make sure that on that date in January, we don’t miss something. So we’re working assiduously to ensure that absolute legal certainty is granted, exactly as you would be if you were marrying as a heterosexual couple." 13

This will make Northern Ireland the last large English speaking country to attain marriage equality.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above menu. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Henry McDonald, "Northern Ireland's block on gay marriage bill faces legal action," The Guardian, 2014-APR-29, at: http://www.theguardian.com/
  2. "Majority in Northern Ireland support same-sex marriages: survey," Belfast Telegraph, 2014-MAY-03, at: http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/
  3. Gary Spedding, "Poll: 57% of people in Northern Ireland now support equal marriage," Pink News, 2013-JUN-06, at: http://www.pinknews.co.uk/
  4. "Do you support the legalisation of same sex marriage?," ISideWith, 2014, at: http://uk.isidewith.com/
  5. "Stormont debate and vote on legalising gay marriage in Northern Ireland," Belfast Telegraph, 2014-MAY-03, at: http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/
  6. avid Young, "Survey shows 70% support for same-sex marriages in Northern Ireland," Belfast Telegraph, 2016-JUN-29, at: http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/
  7. "Attitudes towards same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland," Ipsos MORI, 2016-JUN-29, at: https://www.ipsos-mori.com/
  8. Nick Duffy, "Northern Ireland equal marriage measure passed by MPs in symbolic vote," Pink News, 2018-OCT-24, at: https://www.pinknews.co.uk/
  9. Nick Duffy, "Just 1 in 5 oppose equal marriage in Northern Ireland," Pink News, 2018-APR-05, at: https://www.pinknews.co.uk/
  10. Nick Duffy, "How every MP voted on Northern Ireland equal marriage amendment," Pink News, 2018-OCT-25, at: https://www.pinknews.co.uk/
  11. Lily Wakefield, "Here’s how every MP voted on equal marriage in Northern Ireland, Pink News, 2019-JUL-09, at: https://www.pinknews.co.uk/
  12. "Just one cabinet minister voted against equal marriage in Northern Ireland," Pink News, 2019-JUL-09, at: https://www.pinknews.co.uk/
  13. Emma Powys Maurice, "The first same-sex weddings in Northern Ireland will take place on Valentine’s Day, Pink News, 2019-SEP-10, at: https://www.pinknews.co.uk/

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Site navigation:

 Home page > Homosexuality > Same-sex marriage > SSM > Northern Ireland > here

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Copyright © 2014 to 2019 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2014-MAY-03
Latest update: 2019-SEP-11
Author: B.A. Robinson

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