Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013

Oral Answers to Questions — Northern Ireland – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 20th December 2017.

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Photo of Ged Killen Ged Killen Labour/Co-operative, Rutherglen and Hamilton West 12:00 am, 20th December 2017

If the Government will bring forward legislative proposals to amend the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 to provide that same sex marriages issued in England, Wales and Scotland are recognised as marriages in Northern Ireland.

Photo of Chloe Smith Chloe Smith Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Northern Ireland Office), Assistant Whip (HM Treasury), Assistant Whip

My position on this issue is clear: I voted in support of same-sex marriage in England and Wales and, like the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister, I hope that this can be extended to Northern Ireland in future. I believe marriage should be a common right across the UK. However, the fundamental position remains that same-sex marriage is a devolved issue in Northern Ireland.

Photo of Ged Killen Ged Killen Labour/Co-operative, Rutherglen and Hamilton West

If my husband and I stick to our plans to retire one day to his home town in Northern Ireland, upon my death, my better half would lose a husband in every sense of the word. The registry confirms that no reference to the marriage will be included on any certificate issued and my husband would be recorded simply as a surviving civil partner—years of marriage wiped out by the stroke of a pen. Does the Minister agree that, if the Democratic Unionist party is so keen on having no regulatory divergence from the UK, this is a good place to start?

Photo of Chloe Smith Chloe Smith Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Northern Ireland Office), Assistant Whip (HM Treasury), Assistant Whip

I very much sympathise with this issue and share the frustration encapsulated in the letter to which the hon. Gentleman refers. However, this is not the time to be unpicking the devolution settlement on this issue. It is, rightly, an issue for a future Executive to return to and look at. We hope that the Executive can be brought back to do that and deal with many other important issues.

Photo of Sylvia Hermon Sylvia Hermon Independent, North Down

I would welcome assurances from the Minister that she and the Secretary of State have already met the leaders of the four main Churches in Northern Ireland to discuss the sensitive issue of the recognition of same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland. That assurance would be very helpful.

Photo of Chloe Smith Chloe Smith Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Northern Ireland Office), Assistant Whip (HM Treasury), Assistant Whip

I can certainly confirm that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and the Department have regular contact with Church leaders. As I said, it is an important issue, but it really is an issue for a future devolved Government to look at.