Northern Ireland same-sex marriage bill passes first stage

A Westminster bill calling for same sex marriage in Northern Ireland has passed its first parliamentary stage.

Conservative peer Lord Hayward tabled the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) (Northern Ireland) Bill in the Lords on Tuesday afternoon.

In line with parliamentary procedure, the formal first reading of the private member's bill was brief and was not accompanied by a debate.

Peers will have a chance to voice their opinions on the proposed legislation on its second reading.

Labour MP Conor McGinn will table an identical bill in the House of Commons on Wednesday.

Lord Hayward and Mr McGinn are spearheading efforts to legislate for the contentious issue at Westminster amid ongoing political deadlock over the matter at Stormont.

The ban on same sex marriage is one of the disputes at the heart of the powersharing impasse in Belfast, with the Democratic Unionists resisting Sinn Fein calls for a law change.

Ahead of formally introducing the bill on Tuesday, Lord Hayward said: "It gives me great honour to launch the Westminster campaign for equal marriage rights in Northern Ireland in the House of Lords."