What’s next for LGBT rights in Northern Ireland?
Marriage Equality Demonstrations:
Rally – Saturday 30th May – 2pm assembly at Belfast City hall.
March and Demonstration – Saturday 13th June 2015 – 2.30pm assembly at Writer’s Square.
As Northern Ireland’s neighbours each began to embrace marriage equality it was becoming obvious that as a nation we would soon be left out in the cold when it comes to LGBT rights.
Now following an historic result in Ireland’s Yes vote in the Marriage Equality Referendum there is a prominent patch of inequality in the UK and Ireland.
Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK which does not allow gay marriage after England, Wales and Scotland introduced marriage equality legislation last year.
The DUP, the biggest party in Northern Ireland has steadfastly refused to follow suit. Motions to legalise same-sex marriage have been rejected four times in the assembly.
The last motion in April fell after 47 MLAs voted in support while 49 voted against. The result, however, was a forgone conclusion as it had already been blocked by a DUP petition of concern.
The issues surrounding the rights of the LGBT community are bubbling to the surface more frequently now.
Recent news and events involving the former Health Minister Jim Wells, Northern Ireland’s blood ban, the Ashers Bakery gay cake row, reports of homophobia during the Westminster election campaign and recent blocks on introducing marriage equality have only served to highlight the difficulties experienced by LGBT people here.
Amnesty International’s Northern Ireland Programme Director Patrick Corrigan has criticised Northern Ireland’s politicians for blocking the equality legislation.
“This historic result [in the Republic of Ireland] will echo around the world – it shows how a once socially-conservative country can transform itself into a beacon of equality,” he said.
“Northern Ireland is now the last bastion of discrimination against gay people in these islands.
“Northern Ireland’s discriminatory laws are a badge of shame – not to be worn by the people of Northern Ireland, a majority of whom support same-sex marriage, but by those politicians who oppose equal treatment for the LGBTI community.
“The Northern Ireland Executive should waste no more time in fulfilling its first duty to its people – to ensure that none are treated as second-class citizens.”
Amnesty, along with The Irish Congress of Trade Unions and The Rainbow Project, will hold a mass rally in support of equal marriage (facebook event page link) rights on June 13.
A statement from John O’Doherty, Director of The Rainbow Project, last week reads:
“Northern Ireland is now the only region in Western Europe where marriage equality is not a reality. This is a shameful injustice which cannot be allowed to continue.
‘To highlight this injustice, The Rainbow Project and our partners in Amnesty International and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions have announced a march and rally for marriage equality to be held in Belfast on Saturday 13th June, assembling at Writers’ Square for 2.30pm.
The March for Civil Marriage Equality through central Belfast will culminate in a rally in front of Belfast City Hall.
‘We will continue our fight to ensure that Equality becomes a reality for all the peoples of these islands.’
Some people are calling for a referendum on the issue whilst others are hoping that the outcome of an on-going court case will result in the implementation of marriage equality legislation.
Besides the marriage equality march in Belfast on June 13th there will be another protest at City Hall being organised this Saturday 30th May held at City hall.
The event has been organised by the party People Before Profit and has over 4,000 confirmed attendees on the Facebook event page.
“The referendum in the Republic of Ireland has given great hope to the LGBT community around the world. The referendum was not just about equal marriage, as important as that is. It also gives us all hope that we can build a more equal and fair society.
“However, in Northern Ireland we still do not have the right to marry and elected representatives have failed to get a motion passed for same sex marriage 4 times. Shame on our Assembly!
As a young member of the LGBT community myself I am disgusted at this. But I feel now that the result in the South should spur us on here in the North. Equality can’t wait!
“Let’s get out and make our voices heard. Fellow Members of the LGBT community and everyone who believes in equality, I urge you to join us in a rally, Saturday 30th May, at 2pm, City hall!
“I hope to see many people there, it’s urgent that we organise a large movement to fight against this oppression and demand equal marriage status!”
In a post on the Facebook event page, People Before Profit councillor, Gerry Carroll said:
“This could be the start of a big movement. Well done everyone! Let’s make it a big one! And now the great people at the Rainbow Project and others have called for a big rally in June too! Fantastic! Let’s get everyone down next Saturday as a start for a really big movement that will shake the Assembly to its core. And then get everyone down in June!”
The news of the planned demonstrations comes with a surge in support for equal marriage.
A recent survey in the Belfast Telegraph has found 85% of people believe same sex marriage should be allowed in Northern Ireland (13% said No, 2% said they “Don’t care”).
TGS are encouraging as many people as possible to get involved in the events and put further pressure on the Assembly to embrace equality legislation.