Labour calls for Government to promote equal marriage in Northern Ireland

The Government must do more to promote equal marriage in Northern Ireland, Labour said, as MPs spoke out against homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia.

Shadow equalities secretary Dawn Butler (pictured) welcomed the progress Britain has made but called for the Government to go further in ensuring equality.

Speaking in the House of Commons during a debate on International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHO), she said: “The Government could also legislate in Northern Ireland for equal marriage and bring it in line with the rest of the UK.

“The Government could do that. Almost 80% of those in Northern Ireland actually agree with that.”

Leading the debate, Tory former policing minister Nick Herbert said 70 countries still criminalise sexual acts between men, and 45 also criminalise sex acts between women.

Mr Herbert (Arundel and South Downs) said 11 countries still carry the death penalty for LGBT conduct as a maximum punishment, adding: “And we’ve seen alarming reverses of LGBT rights in countries like Armenia, Brunei, Turkey and Chechnya.”

Speaking about Brunei, which sparked outrage with proposed anti-gay laws, he said: “It remains a concern that in this country and others we have seen the increasing pressure on LGBT+ people using a religious pretext.

“We have to stand up for the universality of human rights and say that these offences are wrong, they should not be on any kind of statute book and they certainly should not be enforced.”

Labour’s Angela Eagle (Wallasey) said despite progress, charity Stonewall’s research “shows a quarter of the world’s population still believes that being LGBTQI should be a crime”, saying that there is a killing due to bigotry “every two days”.

The former minister said: “So while we have seen the forces of progress advance in recent years there is still much to be done.

“We cannot, and must not, be complacent about what has been achieved because we are in an era of backlash, and that should remind us things can go backwards, and rights once achieved can be taken away.

“In 2019 the warning lights are flashing, the 2019 Rainbow Europe List showed that LGBTQI rights are even going backwards in Europe for the first time in 10 years.”

Ms Eagle added: “Everywhere the rise of the far-right is threatening work to counter bigotry and discrimination against LGBTQI people, and in some places this is reversing the gains already made.”

Foreign minister Sir Alan Duncan said: “It is important for the world to hear the British Parliament speak out against homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia.”

Sir Alan added: “Behind these labels which trip off the tongue so easily, we are talking about real people.”

He said the Government has received more than 100,000 responses to a consultation on reforming the Gender Recognition Act, and would be devoting time to understanding the “extraordinarily personal” comments made.

He said the UK welcomes assurances from the Sultan of Brunei on the Sharia penal code, but said more needs to be done across the world. He said homosexuality remains a criminal offence in 70 countries, half of which are members of the Commonwealth.

Conservative Gillian Keegan (Chichester) said her party is making “great progress” before noting: “I remember knocking on the doors a few years ago when many people were concerned about gay marriage, and in an open meeting in my constituency recently of Conservative members I asked them how many people were concerned about gay marriage and two people put their hands up – and even they did it very reluctantly.

“I think attitudes are changing, they take a long time to change but when they change they change very quickly and I think some of the things we’re hearing today are evidence of that.”

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Aaron Chown / PA Wire.