Opinion Former Article

MPs vote to compel legal same-sex marriage and abortion in Northern Ireland

MPs have voted today in favour of compelling the UK Government to make same-sex marriage legal in Northern Ireland, to decriminalise abortion, and to make provision for legal abortion in the cases of sexual crime and foetal abnormality. Humanists UK lobbied MPs in favour of both amendments and has welcomed the votes as a potentially landmark moment in bringing about same-sex marriage and abortion in Northern Ireland.

Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson commented, ‘Today’s votes are a landmark moment for the human rights of women and LGBT people in Northern Ireland. We are delighted that the coordinated effort of so many campaigners and MPs has now led to MPs voting to correct these longstanding wrongs.

‘In a compassionate, rational society, people should be free to live as they wish, so long as they do no harm to others. That means legalising same-sex marriage and providing women a right to choose on abortion. Today’s votes potentially represent a huge step towards seeing that society become reality.’

What’s happened

The Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill, as amended, will now require the Government to change the law in both of these areas by 21 October, unless power-sharing in Northern Ireland resumes before that date.

The two amendments were each proposed by dozens of MPs, most notably Conor McGinn and Stella Creasy. Many members of the All Party Parliamentary Humanist Group (APPHG) were among those to propose the amendments, speak in support of them, and vote in favour. The same-sex marriage amendment passed by 383 votes to 73. The abortion amendment passed by 332 to 99. It followed on from a Supreme Court ruling last summer that the illegality of abortion in Northern Ireland in the cases of sexual crime and fatal foetal abnormality represents a breach of women’s human rights. Humanists UK intervened in the case.

The Bill will now pass to the House of Lords, where it remains to be seen if the Government attempts to remove the new amendments.

Notes

For further comment or information, please contact Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at richy@humanism.org.uk or phone 07815 589636.

Read the amendments that have passed – NC1 and NC10: https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/bills/cbill/2017-2019/0417/amend/niexec_daily_cwh_0708.pdf

Read more about Humanists UK’s campaign work on same-sex marriage: https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/human-rights-and-equality/same-sex-marriages/

Read more about Humanists UK’s campaign work on abortion and sexual and reproductive rights: https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/public-ethical-issues/sexual-and-reproductive-rights/

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by over 85,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.

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