More than 15,000 people have signed the petition demanding an end to the abuse of the petition of concern mechanism by the Democratic Unionist Party. The DUP in Northern Ireland have abused the peace process mechanism five times to block advancing marriage equality legislation for the LGBTQ community.
Four previous motions failed to reach a majority in favour of Marriage Equality. However, even if any of these motions did achieve a majority in favour, the DUP had already used the petition of concern prior to each vote to ensure the legislation could not be implemented. This was also the case with the fifth vote in November 2015, but on this occasion the mechanism was officially enacted to veto a majority of politicians who voted in favour.
According to Amnesty International, at least 58 of the 108 recently elected MLA’s now support the introduction of same-sex marriage legislation. The figures are based on interviews with candidates before the election by Amnesty International and Marriage Equality campaigners, as well a review of previous voting records and public statements.
In the run up to the recent Assembly elections, four parties (Sinn Féin, SDLP, Alliance, Greens) committed themselves to the introduction of equal marriage legislation.
Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty International’s Northern Ireland Programme Director, said:
“There is now a clear majority within the Northern Ireland Assembly in favour of marriage equality. Based on our figures, even a conservative reading of voting intentions shows that there are now at least 58 MLAs in favour of legislating for equal marriage, with 49 or fewer opposed. This is a marked shift in favour of equality and brings the make-up of the Assembly significantly closer to public opinion on this issue.
“The last Assembly repeatedly failed to deliver equality for same-sex couples in Northern Ireland. The new Assembly must put that right without further delay by passing marriage equality legislation to bring us into line with the rest of the UK and Ireland. We call on MLAs from all parties to unite behind a single Marriage Equality Bill in the early stages of the new Assembly term.”
Danny Toner, of The Gay Say, said:
“Political support is only now beginning to reflect the overwhelming support within the general population. Last year, IPSOS Mori and a joint BBC/RTÉ survey revealed 68 and 64% support respectively.
“The Petition of Concern is being used in a way it was never intended and that is fundamentally wrong and needs to be challenged locally and internationally.
“Instead of protecting and enhancing rights for minorities it is being abused to discriminate against the LGBTQ people.
“Furthermore the failure to recognise same-sex marriage licenses for people married elsewhere in the world and downgrading these marriages to civil partnerships will undoubtedly have economic impacts through lost tourism and investment.”