Mover: Layla Moran MP (Spokesperson for Education).
Summation: Baroness Featherstone.
Conference notes that:
- Marriage is a devolved issue in the UK with separate laws in England and Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.
- Same-sex marriage is not recognised in NI and any same-sex marriages in the jurisdiction are recognised as civil partnerships.
- The UK government has consistently attempted to remove themselves from any burden of action by affirming their belief that the Northern Ireland Assembly and not the Westminster Parliament should take the lead on legalisation.
- In November 2015, a majority of MLAs voted in favour of recognising same-sex marriage, the first time it had received majority support in the Assembly, but the vote was struck down by the DUP tabling a Petition of Concern to prohibit the motion having any legal effect.
- The subsequent collapse of the power sharing administration in Northern Ireland has led to any legislative progress stagnating, but public opinion shows support with a widely referenced poll conducted by Sky Data showing 76 per cent of people in Northern Ireland believe same-sex marriage should be legalised.
- Campaigners in Northern Ireland such as Sara Canning, partner of murdered journalist Lyra McKee, have called on politicians to make progress on the issue despite political gridlock at Westminster.
- The Northern Ireland (Executive Formation and Exercise of Functions) Act 2018 references the incompatibility of human rights of the people of Northern Ireland with the current laws on abortion and marriage and further includes a duty on the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to report to the House of Commons on their plans to address the impact of the absence of Northern Ireland Ministers on human rights obligations.
- In July 2019 Parliament voted to legalise same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland by 13 January 2020 if, by 21 October 2019, a government in Northern Ireland has not been restored.
- When in government, the Liberal Democrats started the legislative process and two years later successfully passed the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 through Parliament, allowing same-sex marriages in England and Wales from 29 March 2014.
- Obstacles still exist preventing equal marriage in England and Wales, including the spousal veto which allows the married spouse of a trans person to veto their spouse’s full legal gender recognition and hands a person’s ability to self-identify to their partner, who may not have their best intentions at heart.
- Prior to same-sex marriage legalisation, those acquiring a Gender Recognition Certificate for legal gender protections had to annul their marriage (England and Wales) or divorce (Scotland) to prevent same-sex marriages, which were previously incompatible with the law.
- Humanist marriages are not legally recognised in England and Wales, but have been recognised in Scotland since 2005 and Northern Ireland since 2018, and have already become the second most popular type of marriage in Scotland.
- Obstacles also exist to equal marriage by the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 giving all faith organisations exemption from equalities legislation so that faith organisations have to ‘opt-in’ to perform same-sex marriages, and specific clauses preventing the Church of England and Church of Wales from opting-in to performing same-sex marriages.
Conference welcomes the many churches and other faith organisations who have chosen to support same-sex marriages, and welcomes the significant progress that is being made by many including the Methodist Conference in Britain and by many in the Church of England.
Conference reaffirms the Liberal Democrat commitment to:
- Remove the spousal veto and abolish remaining marriage inequalities in areas such as pensions, hospital visitation rights, and custody of children in the event of bereavement.
- Strengthen legal rights and obligations for cohabiting couples across the UK.
- Extend legal recognition of humanist marriages across the UK.
- LGBT+ people of all faiths and none to be treated equally regardless of their religion, faith or none.
Conference calls for:
- The UK government to address the existing human rights violation and introduce equal marriage legislation to Northern Ireland as an immediate priority.
- The UK government to implement regulations to provide for same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland by 13 January 2020, if the Northern Ireland Executive has not been restored by 21 October 2019.
- The UK government to extend existing legislation in England and Wales to include equal marriage, removing the discriminatory spousal veto.
- The retrospective restoration of marriages, on request, that were annulled or divorced solely due to the Gender Recognition process, where there is a continuing relationship.
- The UK Government to make an order under section 14(4) of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 at the earliest opportunity, to allow humanists to conduct legally recognised marriages in England and Wales
- The UK government to legislate to enable the Church of England and Church in Wales and their celebrants to conduct same-sex marriages.
- The UK government to use our place within the EU to champion equal marriage across all Member States.
- The UK government to use the UK’s influence to help ensure legal recognition of equal marriage across British Oversees Territories and Crown Dependencies.
Applicability: Federal; except 3, 5, 6, which is England and Wales.