MPs Back Liberalising Same-Sex Marriage And Abortion Laws In Northern Ireland

A protestor holding a sign that says

People in Northern Ireland may soon have fair access to abortion and same-sex marriage, after MPs voted in Westminster yesterday to extend freedoms already bestowed on England, Scotland and Wales.

British lawmakers supported the opposition Labour Party's calls for Parliament to vote on expanding abortion and same-sex marriage rights if Northern Ireland's assembly is not up and running by October 21.

Archbishop Eamon Martin joined Bishop John Sherrington of Westminster and Bishop Noel Treanor of Down and Connor in expressing deep concern over the proposed amendments to the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill which are aimed at legalising abortion in Northern Ireland. The Republic of Ireland voted to legalize same-sex marriage in 2015 (making it the first country to do so by popular vote) and abortion in 2018.

The issues are areas of significant dispute between the DUP and Sinn Fein, who have struggled for years to reconcile their differences and resurrect the institutions at Stormont. However, if Stormont has been restored before the regulations have been passed, the change would not go through.

If it is restored, Stormont will have the power to overturn or amend the new laws.

The abortion amendment, put forward by Labour colleague Stella Creasy, was passed with 332 votes to 99.

Prior to the vote, the leader of Ireland's Catholics, Archbishop Eamon Martin, had urged Catholics and others to lobby MPs to oppose the changes.

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"[The DUP] believe the goal of devolution is to allow the different parts of the United Kingdom to make laws that are appropriate for that part of the country".

However, with no Assembly in place for more than two years, backbench members of the British Labour party argued that the two issues can no longer be ignored.

Votes on the amendments were free votes for MPs, as they were viewed as a matter of conscience.

"It failed a generation of people in Northern Ireland by not decriminalising homosexuality, and condemned them to discrimination, to abuse and to living in fear many years after that stopped being the case in the rest of the UK".

But Mr McGinn (St Helens North) warned MPs are continuing to fail LGBT people in Northern Ireland. Added to the passing of an amendment extending women's reproductive rights to Northern Ireland under the same scenario with the lack of an Executive, our society has taken its next step towards being dragged into the 21st century.

However, Peter Lynas, the Northern Ireland director of the Evangelical Alliance, said that it was a "deeply sad day".

"People in Northern Ireland, and indeed across Britain and Ireland, are watching". "Society's laws may have changed but the law of God remains the same: to take the life of any person directly and intentionally is a grave sin and a bad crime".

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