Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths (Registration etc) Bill - Report

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 12:30 pm on 1st March 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Lord Cashman Lord Cashman Labour 12:30 pm, 1st March 2019

My Lords, I shall speak briefly in this debate and pick up on the point noted by the noble Lord, Lord McColl of Dulwich, who said that one should approach these matters with absolute sensitivity. The noble Lord, Lord Hayward, was right to say that things have changed. Indeed, in the 2015 Assembly elections, out of the 90 Assembly Members elected, 55 declared that they would vote in favour should such a measure on equal marriage come before them. We know that polls can be skewed by the question asked, but a Sky poll in Northern Ireland indicated that 76% of the population of Northern Ireland would be in favour of same-sex marriage.

I speak in a similar vein to how I spoke earlier on the issue. This was highlighted by the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, and my noble friend Lady Thornton: it is the principle of equality. If we are a union, we are a United Kingdom and all rights should apply equally across that union. I absolutely accept the principle that you cannot devolve equality or human rights and I believe we are talking about a human right. It was suggested that it should be left to the Assembly, but there is no Assembly. And when there is no action, action must be taken to address the inequality. Some have said that one cherry picks. If we look at the issue we are talking about—the right to marry in a same-sex relationship—I do not believe it is a cherry. The concept of all people being treated equally across the United Kingdom is not fruit to be picked from a tree. It is the root and the branch of democracy. It is what keeps us together.

Therefore, this is an extremely sensible amendment. I take on board what the noble Lord, Lord Hayward, said about wanting the Bill to proceed. Like him, I place on record my thanks to Love Equality and Amnesty International, and to all those who have written to me to say that they care about equality for other people in Northern Ireland.