Same-sex marriage, abortion now legal in Northern Ireland

Once the 19th-century laws that criminalise abortion lapse at midnight, the Government will assume responsibility for introducing new regulations to provide greater access to terminations in the region by next April. Full abortion services are expected to be in place in Northern Ireland by March 31. In the case of marriage equality, marriage rights will become available to the LGBT+ community from January 2020 onwards.

Handout video grab from NI Assembly TV showing a half empty debating chamber at the Stormont Assembly in Belfast, as it sat for the first time in two and half years after it was recalled by MLAs wishing to protest at changes to Northern Ireland's abortion laws.

Speaking this week, Northern Ireland's secretary Julian Smith mentioned that the regulation on identical-sex marriage would be amended and regulations presented no later than 13 January 2020: 'At the most up-to-date, the first civil identical-sex marriages will happen on the week of Valentine's Day 2020'.

Marriage and abortion rights became a reality thanks to the inaction of the conservative local government, which had been suspended for almost three years due to rifts between the pro-British Protestant faction and Catholic-based Irish nationalists.

ABORTION, same-sex marriage, and civil partnerships for couples of different sexes are now to become legal in Northern Ireland, after the failure of the parties in the Northern Ireland Assembly to return to business after more than 1000 days in suspension. To block Westminster, it would have to get the Northern Ireland Assembly up and running again, which would have involved political compromises on other issues that it is not yet ready to make.

Otherwise, the bill's abortion and same-sex marriage amendments would take effect.

But the DUP blocked a change in the law by using a veto known as the Petition of Concern.

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Members of pro choice group Alliance for Choice and Pro Life groups hold demonstrations outside Stormont on October 21, 2019 in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

DUP leadership, though, vowed to keep fighting the laws.

Without participation from the main opposition party Sinn Fein, they could not form an executive under the region's power-sharing laws. "That's all about being dishonest with the public", she said Friday. "It is a very sad day and I know some people will seek to celebrate and I would say to those people, think of us who are sad today and who believe this is an affront to human dignity", said Foster.

"This is undemocratic and it's wrong".

Dr Clarke said on Tuesday: "Sadly, the opportunity for the Northern Ireland Assembly to consider the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Act has now passed".

Opinion has also changed on same-sex marriage.

"So it's important that we're here today to be a voice for the vulnerable - unborn children in our society". The law specified that if the provincial parliament was not restored by midnight on October 21, new human rights legislation would come into effect.

  • Sonia Alvarado