LONDON - Britain's parliament voted on Tuesday in favour of a plan that would compel the government to legalise same-sex marriage and extend abortion rights in Northern Ireland, if the province is unable to re-establish its own devolved government.
The changes passed with a large majority in parliament in London on Tuesday and turned a routine, technical piece of legislation into a vehicle that could enact major social reforms in Northern Ireland.
The province is the only part of the United Kingdom where same-sex marriage is not allowed, and laws there forbid abortion except where a mother's life is at risk.
To the south, once staunchly conservative Ireland legalised same-sex marriage in 2015 and liberalised its abortion laws in a separate referendum last year.
The legislation has several stages to pass before it creates a legal duty on the British government to amend Northern Ireland's laws. That duty only comes into effect if the Northern Irish assembly, which collapsed in 2017, has not been re-established by Oct. 21.