“Permanence, perseverance and persistence in spite of all obstacles, discouragements, and impossibilities: It is this, that in all things distinguishes the strong soul from the weak.”
A move towards marriage equality in Northern Ireland was rejected on Monday, marking the fourth time the motion has been defeated at the Stormont Assembly.
The DUP used a petition of concern, a blocking mechanism to ensure the motion’s defeat.
Last week Amnesty International warned that Stormont could face legal action against its denial of marriage equality to LGBT+ people. Last night a petition on change.org was created to campaign for a Northern Ireland referendum on equal marriage.
Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty International’s Northern Ireland Programme Director, said today:
“Politicians in Northern Ireland who block civil marriage rights for same-sex couples are like latter-day King Canutes, trying in vain to hold back the tide of equality.
“Public opinion in Northern Ireland is now firmly on the side of legalisation of civil marriage for same-sex couples by a ratio of two-to-one. Yet, half of our politicians continue to oppose this equality measure, leaving Northern Ireland as a grim, discriminatory backwater for the gay community.
“States may not discriminate with regards to the right to marry and found a family, on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. This means that marriage should be available to same-sex couples in Northern Ireland, just as it is now in England, Scotland and Wales and may soon be in the Republic of Ireland, following next month’s referendum. If politicians continue with their failure to address this inequality, then it is inevitable that the courts will be asked to intervene.”
Note: Research from the NI Life and Times Survey (conducted late 2013) shows 59% of people support legalisation of same-sex marriage, while 29% oppose it.
96 MLAs voted on marriage equality:
Aye: 47 (49%)
37 ‘nationalists’ voted aye,
4 ‘unionists’ voted aye [John McCallister (UUP), Danny Kinahan (UUP), Basil McCrea (NI21), Claire Sugden (independent)],
6 ‘others’ voted aye,
3 abstained [three Alliance Party MLAs abstained: Judith Cochrane, Trevor Lunn and Kieran McCarthy].
DUP Assembly member Peter Weir said his party vehemently opposed equal marriages:
“This is not a serious debate. Clearly this motion is an attack on the symbolism of marriage and the institution of marriage and an attempt to redefine marriage.
“My party believes, and I believe also, that marriage is between one man and one woman and once you redefine that you lose the essence of marriage itself.”
Alliance MLA Chris Lyttle said:
“The Alliance Party therefore supports the extension of state provided civil marriage to same sex couples, provided that robust legislative protection can uphold the religious freedom of faith groups to define and practice religious marriage as they determine.
As the marriage equality motion suffers its fourth defeat in less than 3 years it is clear that more must be done to defeat the DUP’s petition of concern which will no doubt knock a fair vote at every opportunity. The DUP have weaponised this tool for equality and are using it to solidify bigoted beliefs and tell themselves that they are doing “gods work” by protecting their interpretation of the sanctity of marriage.
Sinn Fein’s Catriona Ruane, a member of the Assembly for South Down, said they wanted to “drown out the bile” put forward by opponents of equal marriage. She said: “Together we will build a society that includes and embraces.”
Meanwhile, Colm Eastwood of the SDLP, said:
“We need to be seen to be embracing all members of our community. There is no reason why the north of Ireland should be the only place on these islands that doesn’t have marriage available to same sex couples.”
A minority of unionist politicians supported the marriage equality bill.
Ulster Unionist MLA Danny Kinahan told the Assembly he was supporting the Sinn Féin motion for marriage equality and was “proud” that his party had given its MLAs a free vote on the motion.
“At school and in the army I believed – and I’m ashamed to say joked carried by the flow – that gay lesbian and such matters were wrong and could be laughed at – I’d never really sat down and thought about it,” Mr Kinahan said.
The UUP MLA said he wanted “a society here in Northern Ireland where no-one is made to feel a second-class citizen to any extent and certainly not due to sexual definition. I want no discrimination whatsoever on account of religious belief or sexual orientation,”
The South of Ireland have the opportunity to discuss, debate, persuade, dissuade, change opinions, break down barriers, knock on doors, challenge minds, smash prejudices and then ultimately vote fairly. This is uplifting, exciting and has motivated a nation into actively dismantling the issue piece by piece.
All of this is happening whilst Northern Ireland remains trapped as the only corner of these isles yet again denied the right to marry.
3 times is ridiculous, four times is just too much – but only goes to show the determination from the LGBT+ community to introduce this legislation.
Amnesty International warned politicians last week that a legal challenge was likely to follow a defeat of the equal marriage motion at Stormont.
The expected legal challenge is just one of several alternative new avenues for achieving equality the equal marriage campaign is exploring. If you have any further ideas or suggestions get in touch with us.
The petition reads –
“For over thirty years this little country has been plagued by bitter, bigoted, sectarian issues that even today are still (unfortunately) finding roots. Thankfully in today’s society this is a considerable minority as most of the inhabitants here want to move beyond to a bright and prosperous Northern Ireland where everyone is treated with respect, dignity and equality.
You have the power to affect change in Northern Ireland. You have the ability right now to show your support to not only your LGBT family and friends but to all LGBT people throughout Northern Ireland, the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. You can send a message to Europe and the rest of the world that Northern Ireland is not the backward, bigoted, sectarian, “stuck in the past” country that we are perceived to be but instead a nation of people that will stand up for what’s right, stand up for equality, support one another and welcome all people of difference to our shore. Let’s show our politicians that it’s not up to them, we the people demand to be heard!