Abortion and same-sex marriage are now legal in Northern Ireland after legislation passed by Westminster MPs has come into effect. The changes were brought in through amendments to a bill passed by MPs in the House of Commons in July. A deadline of midnight on Monday had been in place for power-sharing to be restored, or the new law would come into effect.
Marriages won’t happen right away: the Northern Ireland Office needs time to pass the necessary guidelines and legislation. There are details to be worked out as part of this process. It’s not clear if Civil Partnerships will automatically convert to a marriage, or if people will have to effectively re-marry. At the moment, February next year is being touted as a possible date—the law potentially becoming a tangible reality on Valentine’s Day 2020.
The DUP, and some more conservative-minded Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLA’S), led a last ditch attempt to recall the NI Assembly today in an attempt to block the reforms. With Sinn Féin, the Alliance Party, Green Party and People Before Profit MLAs explicitly stating that they would not be attending. There was no hope of an Executive being formed. The reforms then passed. Marriage equality will be legalised, and abortion will be decriminalised in Northern Ireland.
Declan Meehan, from Love Equality (the campaign for civil marriage equality in NI), said: “We have been campaigning for this day for years, and have watched as other parts of the UK, Ireland and Europe have all introduced marriage equality around us, leaving our citizens in Northern Ireland behind. That wait is now over.
“LGBTQ+ people will be able to marry the person they love, regardless of what gender they are, without having to travel outside of Northern Ireland.”