A bill to legalise same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland passes first stage in House of Lords

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Conservative peer Baron Hayward proposed legislation to legalise same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland in a private members’ bill on Tuesday.

Northern Ireland is currently the only nation within the UK where equal marriage isn’t legal, despite a poll in 2016 saying that 70% of the Northern Irish public were in support of marriage equality.

Not only that, if same-sex couples who have married elsewhere move to Northern Ireland, their union isn’t legally recognised.

The Ten bill passed its first parliamentary stage in the House of Lords, giving members of parliament an opportunity to highlight their concerns.

“It was a clear indication in the Lords this afternoon – normally when you introduce a private members’ bill, it’s received with silence,” Lord Hayward told the BBC’s Evening Extra programme.

“There was audible ‘hear, hear’ from all sides of the chamber, which indicates it’s a general view.”

He added: “The chamber was overwhelmingly in support and the message is absolutely clear – that most people, politicians of all sides and cross-benchers who are of no side – take the view that equality is not something you can pick and choose on around the United Kingdom.

Related: Defying the DUP to bring marriage equality to Northern Ireland

“It should apply to all parts of the UK.”

While this bill will give peers a chance to debate the ongoing issue of marriage equality in Northern Ireland, it is unlikely to pass into law.

Marriage equality continues to be a divisive issue in Northern Ireland, with the Northern Ireland Assembly currently unable to make a decision as it hasn’t been functioning for more than a year.

MLAs have voted five times on whether Northern Ireland should legalise same-sex marriage so far, with the most recent vote in November 2015 being in favour of it being passed into law.

However, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) vetoed it using a petition of concern, a voting mechanism designed to protect the rights of minorities in Northern Ireland.

Same-sex marriage became legal in England and Wales in March 2014, and shortly followed in Scotland in December 2014.

Last month, a group of LGBTQ teenagers delivered a petition of more than 14,000 signatures to the Secretary of State’s office calling for the UK government to deliver marriage equality legislation at Westminster.

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