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4 May 2015 Edition

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Narrow marriage equality vote at Assembly

• Cathal Boylan MLA, Megan Fearon MLA, Sinn Féin Mayor of South Dublin Fintan Warfield and Mickey Brady MLA supporting marriage equality at Stormont

‘Sinn Féin is committed to the promotion of equality and challenging homophobia, racism, sectarianism and all forms of discrimination’

A MARRIAGE EQUALITY proposal tabled by Sinn Féin at the Stormont Assembly on 27 April was defeated 47-49 due to almost total unionist opposition. The measure also faced a blocking move through a Petition of Concern by the Democratic Unionist Party.

It’s the fourth time the Assembly has voted down the equality move by Sinn Féin.

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 Unionist Party MLAs present voted against the motion, including First Minister and DUP leader Peter Robinson and Ulster Unionist Party leader Mike Nesbitt.

The only Ulster Unionist Party member to support the motion was South Antrim Westminster candidate Danny Kinahan. Independent Unionist Claire Sugden (East Derry) and Basil McCrea and John McCallister voted in favour.

Three Alliance MLAs abstained.

There was a notable five absences from the SDLP for the equality vote, including Alban Maginness (North Belfast).

The DUP’s Peter Weir (who had opposed the motion as “an attack on the symbolism of marriage and the institution of marriage”) mocked the SDLP and Alliance benches.

“For some of those parties who position themselves as the champions of same-sex marriage, today’s debate simply highlighted their own internal difficulties,” the DUP critic said.

“There is always a question as to whether we should be concerned for the well-being of several SDLP MLAs who just happen to go missing when such a debate is taking place.

“Similarly, despite the supposed fulsome support of the Alliance Party, three of the MLAs today could not bring themselves to vote in support.

“For all their talk about equality, in both the SDLP and Alliance, it seems that all members are not equal when it comes to same-sex marriage.”

It may be a point pondered by the SDLP’s sister party in the 26  Counties, the Labour Party, which has been canvassing for the SDLP but wholeheartedly engaged in the marriage equality campaign, unlike their SDLP ‘comrades’.

Newry & Armagh Sinn Féin MLA Megan Fearon said that it is disappointing that the DUP tabled a Petition of Concern to block “this important motion”, but added:

“However, it’s important progressive politicians send a clear message of support for the LGBT community by voting in large numbers for marriage equality.

“Sinn Féin is committed to the promotion of equality and challenging homophobia, racism, sectarianism and all forms of discrimination.”

The vote occurred on the day that the resignation was announced of DUP Health Minister Jim Wells after controversial remarks by him at an election hustings linking same-sex relationships with increased abuse or neglect of children. Jim Wells had received the backing of DUP leader and First Minister Peter Robinson but deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness (Sinn Féin) had said his position as Health Minister was clearly no longer tenable. When news emerged of another incident, when Jim Wells canvassed a DUP-supporting lesbian couple that led to a report to police, he announced his resignation (effective from 10 May) so that he can devote more time to his wife who is seriously ill.

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