The new Northern Ireland Secretary has been called “absolutely insulting” after she compared “imposing” gay marriage in the region to “imposing” broadband.
Karen Bradley, who voted for gay marriage in England and Wales, said she wouldn’t introduce gay marriage “in the same way” she would not dictate how high speed internet is rolled out.
The parallel appalled LGBT rights campaigners, who are urging her to pressure Northern Irish politicians on the issue.
Belfast radio station U105 asked Bradley, who has only had the job for two weeks, if she was “frustrated” by the DUP, which has consistently opposed introducing gay marriage.
“It will be a matter for the elected politicians in Northern Ireland to make a decision about equal marriage,” Bradley said.
“That’s not for me to impose, in the same way it’s not for me to impose the way that super-fast broadband is rolled out across the country.”
Amnesty International’s Patrick Corrigan called her remarks “an utter insult to same-sex couples denied the right to equal treatment under the law”.
John O’Doherty, from The Rainbow Project, said: “I find [her] comments absolutely insulting to same sex couples across Northern Ireland currently denied equal treatment under the law.
“The denial of rights to UK and Irish citizens living in Northern Ireland should not be minimised and it is particularly galling to hear these comments from an MP who purports to support same sex marriage and equality for LGBT people.”
LGBT campaigners have requested a meeting with Bradley to urge her to help introduce gay marriage to Northern Ireland.
Speaking on U105 after Bradley, Corrigan said polling showed people in Northern Ireland backed gay marriage, which the DUP blocked in the Stormont assembly, as it was introduced in England, Wales, Scotland and the Republic of Ireland.
Though the issue has won a majority of votes in Stormont, the DUP was able to invoke the “petition of concern” power which strikes down any law that does not win majority support of both unionist and nationalist politicians.
Stormont has been suspended for more than a year and talks on restoring it are due to begin tomorrow.
Corrigan urged Bradley to make gay marriage a crucial issue in any agreement restoring government or, if the talks fail, use her power as Northern Ireland Secretary to introduce it herself.
Corrigan said: “It’s not about Karen Bradley imposing her views... It’s about upholding human rights of couples in Northern Ireland.
“She voted for it in England and Wales... We’re saying people in Northern Ireland have the same human rights, the right to be treated equally...
“She has a political job to do. Either she’s successful in returning a government to Northern Ireland... Or, if that doesn’t happen, it’s over to her and the Westminster Government.”
The Northern Ireland Office declined to comment on the backlash to Bradley’s remarks.