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article imageThreat of legal challenge over gay marriage in Northern Ireland

By Andrew John     Apr 29, 2013 in Lifestyle
There could be a legal challenge in Northern Ireland if it becomes the only part of the United Kingdom without same-sex marriage.
The BBC reports that the warning has come from Amnesty International.
A debate on the issue is taking place at the Northern Island assembly, Stormont, today, and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) has tabled what’s known as a Petition of Concern, which would ensure that the motion – tabled by Sinn Féin – would need cross-community majority to succeed.
“A similar motion was defeated by the assembly last October,” says the BBC, which goes on to quote Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty International’s Northern Ireland programme director, as saying: “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 appears it soon will be in other parts of the UK.
“Should politicians fail to act, there could be a straightforward legal challenge on the basis of inferior treatment of same-sex couples in Northern Ireland with regards to the right to marry and found a family.”
He thinks a legal challenge on the issue would have strong grounds for success.
The DUP’s chief whip, Peter Weir, has confirmed that his party has tabled the Petition of Concern on Sinn Féin’s motion.
Weir is quoted as saying: “It is only a few months since the Assembly last debated this issue and views were clearly expressed at that time.
“It has been made very clear that same-sex marriage will not be introduced in Northern Ireland and the DUP is tabling a Petition of Concern to ensure that this motion will not be carried.”
Same-sex marriage is likely to become law in the rest of the UK, however, and the Tory-led Coalition government has shown its determination to introduce legislation.
In February of this year, the UK’s lower legislative chamber, the House of Commons, voted in favour of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, by 400 to 175, a majority of 225, at the end of a full day’s debate on the bill.
Prime Minister David Cameron has said the move would be “an important step forward” and would strengthen society.
The UK government is pushing ahead with its plan, in spite of strong opposition from religious quarters, most recently in Northern Ireland itself, where Catholic bishops said they would be writing to the Assembly urging members to vote against same-sex marriage.
“The Presbyterian Church has also written to politicians re-stating its opposition to any change in the legal definition of marriage,” said the BBC in a report last week.
More about Gay marriage, Northern ireland, stormont, Amnesty international, democratic unionist party
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