When gay marriage was last voted on in June there was only a two-vote difference overall, with the motion defeated by just 49 votes to 47. Last night there were indications that up to four SDLP MLAs who have abstained or been absent in past votes are prepared to vote for the proposal now. One Alliance MLA, Trevor Lunn, who has voted against and abstained in the past, confirmed he will be supporting the motion. However, one Ulster Unionist who voted for the proposal last time, Danny Kinahan, is no longer in the Assembly and his replacement, Adrian Cochrane-Watson, is believed to be opposed.
Three other unionists – NI21 leader Basil McCrea and independents John McCallister and Claire Sugden – are expected to vote in favour again. Mr Lunn was one of three Alliance party representatives who abstained in the last vote, despite the official party line being to support marriage equality. Yesterday he said the issue of same-sex marriage had not even been included in the party’s last Assembly election manifesto. He said he had been “on a journey” over the issue. But he told the BBC’s Sunday Politics programme that some of those who had praised him for voting against the measure in the past were now “quite critical” of him.
The Guardian reports that the bill is expected to be “torpedoed” by the Democratic Unionists Party (DUP):
Under the complex rules of power-sharing, unionist and nationalist parties can claim a bill or a piece of legislation cannot pass through the devolved assembly because it fails to command cross-community/Protestant-Catholic support. In the four previous votes to attempt to bring in gay marriage reform there have been narrow majorities against change. In April, the margin was only two votes against gay marriage.
Since then a number of unionists and assembly members from the cross-community Alliance party, who abstained in previous votes, have indicated they will vote in favour of the pro-gay marriage motion introduced by Sinn Féin and the Social Democratic and Labour party (SDLP) later on Monday. Yet if there is a narrow vote in favour this time of same-sex marriage being legalised, the DUP has indicated it will use the petition of concern to sink the legislation. Amnesty International said the petition was only designed to protect minority rights rather than discriminate against a minority – Northern Ireland’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.