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Today marks huge progress for the rights of Northern Irish citizens, said Amnesty International, as MPs voted through amendments to the Northern Ireland Executive Formation Bill which will see same-sex marriage legalized, while the UK Government is forced to legislate for abortion reform, including decriminalization.

The amendments to the Northern Ireland Bill – which were tabled by Conor McGinn MP (concerning equal marriage) and Stella Creasy MP (concerning abortion) – were voted through by 383 votes to 73 for equal marriage and 332 votes to 99 for abortion.

Under the legislation, the Government will be obliged to extend marriage equality to Northern Ireland and legislate for abortion by October 21, unless devolution is restored.

Amnesty has worked with cross-party MPs on amendments within the Bill.

Equal marriage

Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty International’s Northern Ireland Director and part of the Love Equality coalition, said:

“This is an incredible moment and a huge cause for celebration. Marriage equality in Northern Ireland is finally a reality. For more than five years, same-sex couples in the rest of the UK have been able to get married while this right has been denied to citizens in Northern Ireland. Now, in just three months’ time, we could see the first same-sex couples here tying the knot. So many people have been campaigning for this for so long. At points it seemed unachievable, but we never gave up. Today’s a day for the history books.”

Abortion

Grainne Teggart, Amnesty International’s Northern Ireland Campaign Manager, said:

“This is a significant defining moment for women’s rights in Northern Ireland. The Government must now put into law the recommendations from CEDAW, which includes the decriminalization of abortion. The grave harm and suffering under Northern Ireland’s abortion regime are finally coming to an end. At a time when prosecutions are still a grim reality, this cannot happen quickly enough.”

Human rights are under threat:

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