Campaigners from Love Equality, an advocacy organisation from Northern Ireland (NI) comprised of The Rainbow Project, HEReNI and Cara-Friend, as well as USI and Amnesty International, have delivered a briefing to the Oireachtas in Leinster House yesterday afternoon.
Established almost a year after the vote to remove the ban in the Republic of Ireland, Love Equality has been actively campaigning for marriage equality in the North ever since.
Although same-sex marriage has been legal in England, Scotland and Wales since 2014, it remains inaccessible in Northern Ireland. Campaigner John O’Doherty stressed that: “they (the UK Government) cannot say the United Kingdom has marriage equality – and it won’t have marriage equality – until Northern Ireland has marriage equality.”
In November 2015, members of the Northern Ireland Assembly voted to support equal marriage, but the measure was blocked by the DUP (Democratic Unionist Party) who brought a ‘petition of concern’ forward. This meant that any vote on proposed legislation can only pass if supported by a weighted majority (from 60%) of the Northern Irish assembly.
The issue cannot currently be voted on, given the fact that NI has been without an Assembly and Executive for more than two years.
“In the absence of a functioning Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive since January 2017, only the UK Parliament can currently remove the ban on same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland,” O’Doherty said.
“However, the UK Government remains unwilling to legislate, leaving same-sex couples in Northern Ireland facing continuing discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation.”
The campaign has the support of more than 50 major employers. The briefing had also been co-sponsored by Senators David Norris and Jerry Buttimer.
It aimed to increase TD support with the intention of gaining a greater foothold in the legislative process and raising awareness for an issue that will continue to be brought up as long as the marriage ban is in effect, O’Doherty said:
“The ongoing denial of marriage equality to people in Northern Ireland is an embarrassing stain on the UK’s LGBT+ rights record and cannot be allowed to continue.”
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