Advertisement

the uk government just voted to extend same-sex marriage and abortion rights to northern ireland

I’m not crying, you’re crying.

by Roisin Lanigan
|
09 July 2019, 11:49pm

Image via Amnesty International

Parliament have just made history by voting to legalise equal marriage for same-sex couples, along with access to abortion for citizens in Northern Ireland.

Until now, under complex and archaic laws, both were prohibited in the region. The 1967 Abortion Act, which allows women in the rest of the UK the right to choose, was never extended to Northern Ireland, nor was the Republic’s decision to repeal the 8th Amendment and legalise abortion in the rest of Ireland over a year ago. As a result, thousands of people from Northern Ireland have been forced to travel for access to healthcare they should be able to access at home. For those without the means to travel, an illegal termination was considered a crime punishable by up to life in prison.

The laws around equal marriage in Northern Ireland were little better. Unlike England, Scotland, Wales and the Republic of Ireland, same-sex marriage was never legalised in Northern Ireland, denying LGBT+ people their human rights and the ability to be seen as equal. Given that Northern Ireland’s local government, Stormont, has been collapsed for over two years, it seemed unlikely that these issues would finally be addressed. But now a new bill has changed history. The bill proposed that with Stormont collapsed, Westminster would be able to legislate on both same-sex marriage and abortion rights with the view that they are human rights issues, not devolved issues.

Today after a fierce debate in Parliament the vote passed, meaning that same-sex marriage and abortion could be legal in Northern Ireland in a matter a months. The same sex marriage vote passed first with a landslide majority of 383 to 73. Following a short break, the abortion rights vote also passed with flying colours, 330 to 99. The vote follows a similar situation as the last time the Northern Irish Assembly collapsed, when the UK government intervened on civil partnership laws.

While today’s bill includes the caveat that a future Northern Ireland government could overturn or amend the law, and is dependent on Stormont still not being functional by 21 October this year, the fact remains that the result is a huge step forward for campaigners, activists, politicians and everyday citizens in the North of the country. “People in Northern Ireland are tired of waiting for their rights,” Northern Ireland Minister John Penrose said in today’s debate. Now, Northern Ireland is on the verge of the end of that wait.

This article originally appeared on i-D UK.