It is absolutely right that people in Northern Ireland should be able to enjoy the same equalities which we enjoy in the rest of the UK. Indeed, I am proud that it was a Conservative-led Government that legislated for equal marriage in England and Wales in 2013.
However, these legislative decisions should be made by Northern Ireland’s elected representatives and not by Westminster politicians. Following Tuesday's vote, it is now paramount that Northern Ireland’s political leaders restore inclusive devolved government at the earliest opportunity and bring forward the legislation that is required.
Crucially, it is important that this vote on legislative change does not set a precedent for intervention by Westminster in Northern Ireland and undermine the devolution settlement or the Good Friday Agreement.
I am proud that the UK has been recognised as one of the best countries in Europe for LGBT equality, and I am proud of our achievements in this area. From changing the law to allow same-sex couples to adopt, to introducing the world's first transgender action plan in 2011, the UK has been at the forefront of change.
I am incredibly conscious of the fact that LGBT people continue to face significant barriers in their lives. The Government have published a comprehensive Action Plan with over 75 commitments to improve the lives of LGBT people. These include appointing a national LGBT health adviser, extending the anti-homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying programme in schools and taking further action on LGBT hate crime.
I am also encouraged by the proposals to make the process that people go through to change their gender less bureaucratic and intrusive. This was the basis of a wide-ranging consultation to review the Gender Recognition Act.
Furthermore, I supported the Conservative Government’s Turing's law in 2017, pardoning thousands of men for, now abolished, LGBT offences. The General Election of 2017 saw the highest number of openly gay, lesbian and bisexual MPs elected to Parliament and I know that a lot of hard work is underway to build on this progress and deliver greater equality.
Ultimately, the elected members of the Northern Ireland Assembly have a responsibility to restore Government and introduce legislation on behalf of all their citizens to ensure that they have the rights and equalities which we enjoy in the rest of the UK.