NORTHERN Ireland will be the only place in Britain where same-sex couples are not allowed to wed after politicians in Belfast rejected a proposal to harmonise marriage equality laws across the UK.

The members of Northern Ireland’s Assembly voted 51 to 43 against a Sinn Féin motion to legalise same-sex marriage on Tuesday, the third time the province’s legislature has struck down marriage equality proposals in the last 18 months.

The vote leaves Northern Ireland, which is home to 1.8 million and takes up one-sixth of the island of Ireland, at odds with the rest of the UK.

The first same sex marriages in England and Wales took place last month, with Scotland looking to follow suit by the end of the year.

It leaves Northern Ireland in a similar position to the Republic of Ireland with both states only going so far as granting civil partnerships to same-sex couples.

All members of Sinn Féin, as well as fellow nationalists the Social Democratic and Labour Party, backed marriage equality. However, with all but a handful of unionist and non-aligned party members voting against the motion, it was defeated.

Church leaders were united in their opposition to the proposal with the catholic bishops in Northern Ireland writing to every Assembly member urging them to vote no.

“The proposed ‘marriage equality’ motion before the Assembly effectively says to parents, children and society that the state should not, and will not, promote any normative or ideal family environment for raising children,” the letter said.

“It therefore implies that the biological bond and natural ties between a child and its mother and father have no intrinsic value for the child or for society.”

Northern Ireland’s Amnesty International program director Patrick Corrigan said legislators that vetoed marriage equality were: “like latter-day King Canutes, trying in vain to hold back the tide of equality.

“Marriage should be available to same-sex couples in Northern Ireland, just as it is now in England and Wales and will shortly be in Scotland.”

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