MPs have voted overwhelmingly to extend abortion access and same-sex marriage to Northern Ireland if devolution is not restored by October.
Applause broke out during these historic votes for equality.
The Commons voted 383 to 73 to pass the same-sex marriage amendment to a largely technical bill on the stalled Northern Ireland assembly, tabled by the Labour MP Conor McGinn, originally from south Armagh and a longstanding campaigner for equal marriage in Northern Ireland.
It was part of a Commons debate aimed at keeping Northern Ireland running in the absence of devolved government which collapsed in January 2017.
MPs have tabled a series of other amendments including bringing abortion legislation into line with the rest of the UK – and voted overwhelmingly to allow women the choice by 332 votes to 99.
They argue these issues should not be stalled due to the stalemate which has broken down the Northern Irish Stormont government.
The votes were free vote for MPs, as they were viewed as a matter of conscience. Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK where same-sex marriage and abortion are not legal.
Commons Speaker John Bercow selected for consideration cross-party proposals for Westminster to take action in the absence of the Stormont Executive.
But Mr Bercow did not select Tory former attorney general Dominic Grieve’s new clause 14, viewed as the most significant of his most recent proposals designed to stop a no-deal Brexit, during the latest stage of the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill.
Labour’s Conor McGinn put forward a proposal to the NI Executive Formation Bill that if Stormont is not restored by 21 October, then the government should legislate for same-sex marriage – with the caveat that a future assembly could overturn or amend the law.
“My priority, and what I want to see, is an assembly up and running and functioning in Stormont, so it is my strong view that the way that this amendment is crafted doesn’t impinge on the devolved settlement because it explicitly recognises that this is a devolved power,” he said.
“At the minute, the assembly and executive exists in the ether or as a concept, not in reality.”
Stella Creasy, Labour MP for Walthamstow, led efforts to extend access to abortion in Northern Ireland with new clause 10 requiring the Northern Ireland Secretary to make regulations to give effect to recommendations from a report.
The regulations would have to come into force by October 21 unless an Executive is formed before this date.
Speaking at committee stage in the Commons, DUP Westminster leader Nigel Dodds said the equal marriage proposal, which MPs are set to vote on at 5pm, is “seeking to drive a coach and horses through the principle of devolution, overriding the concerns of people in Northern Ireland”.
Independent unionist MP (North Down) Lady Sylvia Hermon said of her constituents: “They are greatly concerned that this amendment might undermine the devolved settlement in Northern Ireland.”
But Mr McGinn (St Helens North) warned MPs not to fail LGBT people in Northern Ireland yet again.
He said: “It failed a generation of people in Northern Ireland by not decriminalising homosexuality and condemn them to discrimination, to abuse and to living in fear many years after that stopped to be the case in the rest of the UK.
“It failed people in Northern Ireland by not extending same-sex marriage when it became the law here making people in Northern Ireland less valued than the rest of us.
“Tonight, we have a chance to do the right thing.
“People in Northern Ireland, and indeed across Britain and Ireland, are watching.
“I for one am not going to let them down and I hope colleagues in this House don’t let them down.”