The leader of the Social Democrats and Labour Party (SDLP) has said his brother left Northern Ireland because of the way LGBT+ citizens are treated.
Colum Eastwood said his brother Liam wasn’t classed as a “full citizen” in the region and so made the decision to move to London.
“This isn’t about me and my brother, there are many, many, people in the community who feel like that,” the party leader said in an interview with the BBC.
“If people who love each other still aren’t entitled to get married, that’s a disgrace and has to stop and there is a simple way of fixing it.”
— Colum Eastwood (@columeastwood) February 14, 2018
Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK, and Western Europe, where same-sex couples do not have the right to marry or for their marriage to be legally recognised.
In May 2015, Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, the DUP, blocked same-sex marriage from being legalised by using the petition of concern prior to Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) voting on the measure, to ensure that it would not go through, even if it secured enough votes at Stormont. It was the DUP’s fifth time to use such tactics.
‘We are not surprised by this story,’ said John O’Doherty, director of The Rainbow Project, which promotes the rights of the LGBT+ community in Northern Ireland. ’Many LGBT people have contacted The Rainbow Project stating that they left Northern Ireland because they did not feel welcome.’
O’Doherty told GayStarNews that extending the same-sex marriage rights to Northern Ireland would be a major boost the country’s LGBT+ community. ‘Northern Ireland remains the only part of the UK and Ireland where same-sex marriages are not legal, which leads many to feel that they are second-class citizens, and are not equal to others across the UK and Ireland.’
Despite this, O’Doherty said it has never been a better time to be LGBT+ in Northern Ireland and the country is a “very welcoming and open place”.
“However, there remains a very vocal minority opposed to LGBT equality and in some instances opposed to LGBT people more generally. Additionally, there are a number of shortfalls in terms of LGBT equality legislation including marriage equality and education reform which make LGBT people feel unwelcome and undervalued” he said.
Latest polls reveal an overwhelming three-quarters of those surveyed support same-sex marriage.
DUP leader Arlene Foster has maintained her “principled position” that opposes marriage equality. Foster announced that she has accepted an invitation to an LGBT+ event being held by one of the biggest inward investors in Northern Ireland.
Yesterday evening at Dublin Castle, Leo Varadkar made a commitment as Taoiseach to speak up about LGBT+ civil rights in Northern Ireland.
© 2018 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.