The Westminster Government should ‘seriously consider’ forcing same-sex marriage on Northern Ireland, a Labour MP has indicated.
Ivan Lewis, the Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary, said the Government should take such steps if the Stormont Assembly was suspended.
Politicians in Northern Ireland have voted against same-sex marriage four times in three years.
Ivan Lewis made the comments at a speech in Belfast, as he also called for a referendum on the issue.
Lewis said that if Northern Irish political institutions were to be suspended, that could create an opportunity to redefine marriage.
He said, “my party believes the government should give serious consideration to introduce legislation at Westminster to extend same-sex marriage to Northern Ireland”.
Speaking to the Guardian ahead of yesterday’s speech, Lewis said he would like the Northern Ireland Assembly to introduce a same-sex marriage law.
However, he said with this currently not happening, a referendum should be held on the issue.
“Naturally, legislation triggered by a yes vote would include provisions as in the Westminster legislation which ensure faith groups are not required to undertake any activity which they deem as contrary to their beliefs”, he commented.
He also told the newspaper that he respected the right of politicians to oppose the redefinition of marriage on religious grounds.
“I do not condemn or attack them as ‘bigots’ or ‘homophobes’.”
But he also stated his view that it was wrong for them to “impose their religious beliefs on the legislative framework”.
The prospect of the Assembly being adjourned has been raised as politicians consider how to respond to reports of recent IRA activities.
The latest vote on marriage in Northern Ireland was held in April, and a Sinn Féin MLA has since signalled that the party will push for a change again.
Callum Webster, spokesman for The Christian Institute, said after the last vote: “This is now the fourth time in three years this motion has been defeated.
“We’re thankful to those MLAs who have resisted this constant and co-ordinated pressure from activists to redefine marriage.”