Today, The Rainbow Project, Northern Ireland’s largest LGBT support organisation responded to suggestions from politicians that a referendum should decide the issue of marriage equality in Northern Ireland and said that a referendum is not the answer.
Director of The Rainbow Project, John O’Doherty said: ‘I think that everyone in our community is pleased to see the strides taken towards Equal Marriage in the south, although we know a yes vote cannot be taken for granted. It should be recognised though that if a referendum in the South was not required, Equal Marriage would already be law. We are not afraid of a referendum on marriage equality in Northern Ireland and numerous polls have shown that a majority of the population is in favour of recognising same-sex marriages.
‘However, we must remember that a referendum in the UK has no binding legal effect. Even if the public were to vote in favour of marriage equality, the Assembly would have to pass enabling legislation and as we have seen this week, the Assembly is incapable of making this necessary legal change.
‘It is clear to us, that without a legislative remedy to this on-going injustice, the only option is for the courts to strike down the irrational and illogical patchwork of marriage laws across the UK. There are same-sex couples in Northern Ireland who are married. They were lawfully married in the UK and they remain lawfully married. By saying that someone stops being married when they come home to Northern Ireland, the state is engaging in unlawful discrimination and this must be corrected.’