peter tatchell northern irelandThousands of people are taking to the streets of London today (27.06.15) for the city’s annual Pride celebrations. More than 250 groups are taking part in the parade, which left from Baker Street at 1pm this afternoon.

Police said there was extra security on the route following terror attacks in France, Tunisia and Kuwait on Friday.

The United States flag will join Ireland and Mozambique’s at the front of the march, recognising recent gay rights progress in the three countries.

However one human rights organisation at the London event decided to “focus on LGBT inequality much closer to home.”

At today’s event The Peter Tatchell Foundation chose to highlight “legal discrimination against LGBT people in Northern Ireland: the ban on same-sex marriage, the lifetime prohibition on gay blood donors and the planned ‘conscience’ Bill which would permit religious people to discriminate against LGBT people in the provision of goods and services.”

The Peter Tatchell Foundation was in the lead bloc of the parade; sixth from the front.

“Northern Ireland is the most homophobic region of the UK and one of the most homophobic regions of the EU. This prejudice is stirred by the dominant Democratic Unionist Party. Its policies on gay issues echo the homophobia of the BNP and European fascist groups,” said Peter Tatchell, Director of the human rights organisation, the Peter Tatchell Foundation.

“Not surprisingly, many of us see the DUP as the Northern Irish equivalent of the BNP. Not Nazi, but very, very nasty.” he wrote in his article “Time to End the Gay Bans in Northern Ireland” published by the Huffington Post.

In the article Mr Tatchell also shines a spotlight on some of the DUP’s actions against the LGBT+ community in Northern Ireland.

“For more than 40 years, DUP politicians have enforced discrimination against Northern Ireland’s LGBT community. They backed the total criminalisation of homosexuality, with a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. The DUP fought against the partial decriminalisation of gay sex in 1982; and spearheaded a vicious “Save Ulster From Sodomy” campaign that demonised and vilified LGBT people.”

“The party’s strident anti-gay agenda led to its MPs voting in the House of Commons against every LGBT law reform of the last 16 years. They trooped through the lobby to vote in favour of retaining the legal right to discriminate against LGBT people in the military, education, adoption, employment, age of consent, housing, IVF treatment, transgender recognition, criminal law and professional services.”

“Successive DUP Health Ministers have maintained a lifetime ban on gay and bisexual blood donors; acting against the medical advice that led to the easing of the ban in England, Wales and Scotland.”

“For many years the DUP opposed the right of same-sex couples to adopt children. They also resisted the introduction of civil partnerships and the holding of LGBT Pride parades in cities like Belfast.”

“It is currently backing a proposed Freedom of Conscience Amendment Bill, which would allow religious people to discriminate against LGBTs; including denying them service in B&Bs, shops, and leisure facilities.”

At today’s Pride event in London the veteran human rights campaigner asked onlookers to assist on keeping up pressure on the Northern Ireland Assembly to embrace equality.

“It’s really important we celebrate the progress made by the LGBTI community but also keep up the pressure to win the remaining equalities that are still not achieved. Our focus today is on the anti-gay laws in Northern Ireland, the ban on same-sex marriage, the ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood and the proposed new conscious bill to allow religious organizations to discriminate against LGBTI people.”

“It’s absolutely outrageous that a part of the UK is living in the dark ages where LGBTI people still suffer institutional discrimination. The main political force in Northern Ireland is the Democratic Unionist Party and their policies on LGBTI issues echo the extreme homophobia of the BNP and European fascist parties. It has no place in democratic politics.”

“It’s great the United States now has marriage equality. That’s more of a reason why Northern Ireland should catch up. For same-sex couples to be denied the right to marry in part of the UK is outrageous. We have same-sex marriage in England, Scotland and Wales, why not Northern Ireland?”

Mr Tatchell helped organise the UK’s first lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Pride in 1972 and he has marched in every parade since then.

“We stand in solidarity with our LGBT brothers and sisters in Northern Ireland. We support their campaign for dignity, respect and equality,” he said.