Only four days after she proclaimed herself an ‘ally for life,’ lame-duck UK prime minister Theresa May failed to vote for marriage equality to Northern Ireland.
The prime minister pledged life-time support for LGBTI people ahead of Pride in London. But she was one of numerous high-profile lawmakers to not vote in a groundbreaking decision to allow marriage equality in Northern Ireland. .
On the same day possible successor to May, Jeremy Hunt said in a TV debate that he supported marriage equality. But he failed to turn up for the Northern Ireland vote – the one part of the UK which doesn’t yet allow same-sex weddings.
Moreover, Boris Johnson the other candidate to be the next prime minister, also didn’t vote.
Members of Parliament (MPs) overwhelmingly voted in favor of extending same sex marriage to Northern Ireland. Thereby, enshrining the entirety of the UK with the right.
However, the vote will require secondary legislation. And it will only come into force if a devolved government is not formed by 21 October in Northern Ireland.
This is because Northern Ireland’s government – the Northern Ireland Assembly – was suspended two years ago after rival parties hit a political stalemate.
Since then, marriage equality and access to abortion have become two key blocking points to a new assembly.
Yet, several British cabinet ministers abstained from a free vote on marriage equality yesterday (9 July). Including May, who recently tweeted: ‘I will only be your prime minister for a few more weeks. But I will be your ally for the rest of my life.’
Theresa May’s pledge was ‘meaningless’
Critics jumped in. Some said her pledge was ‘meaningless’ and claimed the rest of her life meant ‘a few days.’
Lyndsay Macadam, chief executive of UK LGBTI charity Switchboard, welcomed the vote. But she denounced May.
She told The Independent: ‘However, whilst we understand that Northern Ireland politics are complex, we are saddened and disappointed that Theresa May did not feel able to demonstrate her allyship for LGBTQ communities in real terms in her final weeks as prime minister.
‘Her claim on Pride weekend that she would “be your ally for the rest of my life” are empty and meaningless in the light of this lack of support.
‘To be an ally is not just to tweet during Pride, but to build relationships based on trust, consistency and accountability.’
‘They’re only allies when it suits them’
Moreover, several LGBTI Twitter users tapped onto keyboards, expressing their frustration at the prime minister and Boris Johnson, May’s most likely successor.
As one user explained: ‘Boris Johnson went to gay pride for a photo opportunity he then voted against Northern Ireland same-sex marriage.
‘Theresa May said she is on our side even though she voted for section 28 in the 80s and didn’t turn up to vote for same-sex marriage last night.
‘This is gaslighting.’
As another user summarized: ‘They’re only allies when it suits them.’
How about Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt?
At a televised debate on Tuesday, the same day as when equality was passed, the two lawmakers splintered on the topic of equal marriage.
During the quick-fire round of the debate, a moderator asked: “Do you support extending abortion rights and same-sex marriage to Northern Ireland?”
While Hunt said ‘yes,’ while Johnson said he thought it was a matter for the Northern Ireland Assembly. As a result, opposing his fellow MPs vote
Who else abstained?
Safe to say that the three lawmakers were not alone.
Other ministers who failed to vote include Ester McVey, David Lidington, Philip Hammond, Sajid Javid, Stephen Barclay, David Gauke, Liam Fox, Damian Hinds, Chris Grayling, Karen Bradley, Allun Cairns, Rory Stewart, Brandon Lewis and Jeremy Wright.
However, cabinet ministers Penny Mordaunt, Matt Hancock, Greg Clark Amber Rudd, Michael Gove, Liz Truss and David Mundell voted for the amendment.
James Brokenshire, state and houses secretary, was the only cabinet minister to vote against it.
‘We’re now within touching distance’
Nevertheless, LGBTI activists on the ground in Northern Ireland remain optimistic. There’s a reason to celebrate, after all.
Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty International’s Northern Ireland director, told Gay Star News about his delight in the MPs voting.
‘After months of working closely with a cross-party coalition of MPs and peers, MPs have just voted overwhelmingly to legalise same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland. This is a giant leap forward for human rights and equality.
‘Equal marriage is now firmly fixed within the Northern Ireland Bill, and will become law once it has passed its final stage in Parliament.
‘We’re now within touching distance of seeing this legislation passed into law and having our rights realised.’