Northern Ireland’s Assembly voted narrowly to legalize marriage equality, but because of a voting mechanism triggered by the Democratic Unionists, the largest party in the devolved Parliament, no change will actually occur.

Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom that still does not recognize same-sex marriage in law. Monday’s vote was the fifth time in three years that the Assembly has voted on same-sex marriage, and each time until now the vote has collapsed.

Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty International’s Northern Ireland program director, said the vote is a “significant milestone on the journey to marriage equality.”

He added: “The abuse of the petition of concern, to hold back rather than uphold the rights of a minority group, means that Stormont (Northern Ireland’s seat of devolved power) has once again failed to keep pace with equality legislation elsewhere in the U.K. and Ireland. The battle for equality in Northern Ireland will now move to the courts,” Corrigan said, “where same-sex couples have been forced to go to secure their rights as equal citizens in this country.”

From The Guardian:

Under the complex rules of power sharing in the region, parties from either the unionist or nationalist community can use this mechanism if they feel there is not enough backing from Protestants or Catholics for particular legislation. It was designed to ensure no one community dominated the other following the 1998 Belfast agreement.

Amnesty International said on Monday it was ironic that a mechanism established to ensure the rights of minorities in Northern Ireland had been used to deny a fundamental right to the LGBT minority in the province.

The DUP [Democratic Unionist Party] veto means that Northern Ireland remains the only part of the UK where gay couples cannot get married legally. The party is heavily influenced by the socially conservative Evangelical Christian community, particularly the Free Presbyterian church, which was founded by the late DUP leader, the Rev Ian Paisley.

In an often fractious debate inside the Stormont assembly there were a number of trenchant attacks on the notion of gay marriage equality from the unionist benches.

Before Monday’s vote gay couples handed out invitations to the weddings they were planning to have if the legislation had passed through without any veto.

At least three LGBT couples are planning legal action to challenge the same-sex marriage ban, pledging to take the fight to the European court of human rights if necessary.

Read more here.

SEE ALSO: Why Ireland’s ‘Yes’ Vote Matters So Much

–Posted by Roisin Davis

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