For the first time in five over the last three years the bill received a majority of MLAs vote: 53 voted for and 52 voted against marriage equality.
However the motion was blocked because the DUP tabled a ‘petition of concern’ that required separate majorities of both unionists and nationalists to succeed, this means that despite having a majority in Storming Northern Ireland will effectively continue to ban same-sex marriage.
A majority of Unionist MLAs have voted against marriage equality
In June Stormont MLAs voted against marriage equality with 49 votes to 47.
The Northern Ireland Assembly had previously defeated moves to legalise marriage equality four times since October 2012.
Today’s motion, brought by both Sinn Fein and SDLP MLAs, stated that “this Assembly calls on the Executive to table legislation to allow for same-sex marriage”.
Speaking after the vote, John O’Doherty, Director of The Rainbow Project, Northern Ireland’s largest LGBT support and advocacy organisation, said: “We are absolutely elated today. We cannot overstate the impact this vote will have on our community across Northern Ireland. I want to sincerely thank all those MLAs who voted in favour of the motion today; those who have supported marriage equality from the start and particularly those who have gone on a journey in their support.
“It is true that the DUP have abused the petition of concern to block this vote and are now ignoring the will of the Assembly and the people of Northern Ireland but we will not allow them to dampen our joy today. Our campaign continues and it will not end until marriage equality is a reality for everyone in Northern Ireland.
“Today’s majority vote marks another landmark victory in our campaign and we celebrate with our LGBT friends, our families and our supporters on this momentous day.”
Speaking with KaleidoScot, Maggie Chapman, co-convener of the Scottish Green Party, reacted to the news: “I’m pleased that the Northern Ireland Assembly has voted in favour of giving legal equality to LGBTI+ people. It’s is therefore deeply disappointing that the ‘Democratic’ Unionist Party have chosen to abuse a technical procedure to prevent equality.
“The procedure, called a ‘petition of concern’ exists to protect the human rights of minorities. It is both inappropriate and deeply distasteful that the DUP have used this mechanism to deny people their human rights. I would like the Secretary of State to look at ways to prevent the abuse of the petition of concern and allow the Assembly’s vote to stand.”
Amnesty International’s Patrick Corrigan said he was encouraged that MLAs voted in favour of marriage equality but disappointed the vote was blocked.
“It is a tragedy that same-sex couples are forced to ask the courts to fulfil a responsibility which has been abdicated for too long by too many politicians,” he said.
Peter Lynas from the Evangelical Alliance said examining potential reform of civil partnership legislation was a better way to address concerns raised by the LGBT community.
“The Evangelical Alliance supports marriage between a man and woman as it’s understood in the majority of countries around the world,” he said.
“If the latest motion in Stormont is really about equality then we are happy to have a discussion about how you fix the civil partnership legislation – we think that’s the way to do it.”
Northern Ireland remains the only part of the United Kingdom that has no marriage equality.
Civil Partnership has been legalised across the UK in 2004, including Northern Ireland. Following the vote Equal Marriage is still blocked in Northern Ireland, however, it is possible for same-sex couples from Northern Ireland to convert their partnerships into marriage in Scotland from today.