NORTHERN IRELAND: Assembly Narrowly Rejects Same-Sex Marriage Bill
The Northern Assembly has again voted to reject legalising same sex marriage. The Democratic Unionist Party had used its numbers to block the Sinn Féin motion on Monday evening through a vetoing mechanism called a petition of concern. In the end however the petition was not required as the Sinn Féin motion was defeated by a simple majority of 49 votes to 47.Sinn Fein is supporting marriage equality "north and south."
All 37 Sinn Féin and SDLP members present voted for the motion while four unionists and six Assembly members designated as “other” also voted in favour. All DUP members and all but one of the Ulster Unionists present voted against the motion including First Minister and DUP leader Peter Robinson and Ulster Unionist Party leader Mike Nesbitt.
The only UUP member to support the motion was South Antrim Westminster candidate Danny Kinahan. Independent unionist Claire Sugden from the East Derry constituency and two MLAs associated with the NI21 party, Basil McCrea and John McCallister voted in favour. This is the fourth time in two-and-a-half years that Sinn Féin motions on same sex marriage have been defeated. In the last vote in April last year two Alliance MLAs Judith Cochrane and Trevor Lunn voted against the motion. This time they abstained along with Alliance colleague Kieran McCarthy.
RELATED: The debate over the bill involved an anti-gay scandal.
The controversy surrounding Northern Ireland's DUP health minister, Jim Wells, featured heavily in the debate. The health minster issued a public apology on Friday, after he was recorded on camera making comments linking gay relationships and child abuse. Mr Wells then announced his resignation on Monday, after it was confirmed that police are also investigating an incident involving a lesbian couple during a door-to-door election canvas by Mr Wells in County Down. It is alleged that he called at the couple's house, and during a conversation was critical of their lifestyle. He is due to step down on 11 May to spend more time with his seriously ill wife, but Sinn Féin said his resignation should take immediate effect. Sinn Féin's Catriona Ruane expressed sympathy over his wife's illness but said he should have resigned immediately after linking child abuse to gay parents.