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Northern Ireland narrowly votes against gay marriage

Members of the legislative assembly have voted 53 against, 42 in favor of introducing same-sex marriage
Northern Ireland's National Assembly has narrowly voted introducing same-sex marriage, as Amnesty International suggests it could face a legal challenge over opposing the law.

Northern Ireland leaders in the Assembly have narrowly voted against same-sex marriage today (29 April).

Out of the 97 members of the legislative assembly, 42 voted in favor while 53 voted against.

An amendment adding language about protecting religious freedoms in the motion also failed, with 51 voting against and 46 in favor.

The vote followed the Irish Constitution Convention that voted for equal marriage with a 79% majority. 

Sinn Fein introduced the motion, with Bronwyn McGahan saying she understood there was deeply held religious views on the matter among the MLAs but said should respect the rights of gay people.

MLAs, regardless of religious belief, represent every section of our community, including our LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) members and this motion is about ensuring marriage equality for everyone regardless of their sexual orientation,’ she said.

‘What churches do is a matter for churches but the state needs to treat everyone with equality.’

Finance Minister Sammy Wilson of the Democratic Unionist Party argued if same-sex marriage was legalized, then it could lead to three or more people wanting to get married.

‘This is not an issue of equality, it is an issue of redefining marriage as it has always been understood,’ he said.

‘Once there's a change in the legal definition of marriage then those who take up contrary views will find themselves up against the law - their rights will be infringed.’

Wilson said the motion’s reference to a vote at the Irish Constitutional Convention had no bearing on the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Both the Presbyterian and Catholic Church had written to the government to oppose same-sex marriage.

Amnesty International has warned of a likely legal challenge if Northern Ireland is left as the only part of the UK without marriage rights for same-sex couples.

Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty International's Northern Ireland programme director, 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 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.'

Today follows a similar vote in October when MLAs voted overwhelmingly against same-sex marriage.

Speaking to Gay Star News, Gavin Boyd from Equal Marriage NI said there was a lot of disappointment with the way some specific MLAs spoke about the issue, but the mood is no less upbeat than it was before the vote.

'This fight started last October and this is not the end of it,' he said. 

'To anyone who is disheartened, it just shows that when the DUP said we will never have decriminalization [of homosexuality], we will never have civil partnerships, they have always lost. And they will lose again.'

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