11 JUL 2019

Northern Ireland and gay marriage

The claim that the voting this week was about the introduction of same sex marriage or abortion rights in Northern Ireland was wide of the mark.  Everyone was using this Bill for their own purposes including those who wanted to use it to stop a proroguing of Parliament.

In fact, it was not about these activities at all but about trying to use the current absence of a Northern Ireland Assembly to try to tell Northern Ireland what it should do. It cut across devolution and I was not prepared to support the amendments for this reason.

Same sex marriage, for example, in Northern Ireland is a devolved matter which should, in accordance with the Belfast Agreement, be addressed in the Northern Ireland Assembly.  Talks are continuing to resurrect the Assembly and I viewed these amendments and new clauses as premature.  There was a free vote on the issue.

I support same sex marriage. As an indication of this, I participated in a debate on Homophobia to stress the importance of the human rights involved which you may read at http://www.johnhowellmp.com/parliamentary-appearances/speech-on-homophobia/1612.  Marriage aside, I welcome that the Government has committed to furthering the rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual people in the UK. In 2017, Turing's law was passed, posthumously pardoning men for now abolished offences. The last General Election saw the highest number of openly gay, lesbian and bisexual MPs voted into Parliament. I know that a lot of hard work is underway to continue to build on this progress and deliver greater equality for all.

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