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 removed 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.
- 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.
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.
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 extend existing legislation in England and Wales to include equal marriage, removing the discriminatory spousal veto.
- 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 2. (lines 52-54) which is England and Wales.