Campaign seeks TD support to challenge Northern Ireland same-sex marriage ban

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, it has been claimed.

Love Equality NI campaigners briefed members of the Irish parliament on Wednesday about the fight for marriage equality in the region.

The coalition, which comprises six organisations, is seeking the support of parliamentarians in both the UK and Ireland to compel British Prime Minister Theresa May to implement marriage equality without delay.

They said UK marriage equality will not exist until same-sex couples in Northern Ireland are afforded the right to marry.

Campaigner John O’Doherty said: “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.”

Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom or Republic of Ireland which maintains a ban on marriage for same-sex couples.

It is almost four years since the successful marriage equality referendum in the Republic, and five years since the introduction of same-sex marriage in England, Wales and Scotland.

In November 2015, members of the Northern Ireland Assembly voted to support equal marriage, but the measure was blocked by the DUP – using a device called the “petition of concern”.

Local politicians have not been able to vote on the issue since because Northern Ireland has been without an Assembly and Executive for more than two years.

TDs and senators heard that Westminster had a duty to uphold the human rights of all UK citizens and that it had a jurisdictional power to legislate on the issue, but had no plans to do so.

“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,” Mr 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.”

“Justice delayed is justice denied. It is unacceptable and unsustainable to have a patchwork of marriage laws across these islands,” he 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.”

The Love Equality group includes three regional LGBT organisations: The Rainbow Project, HEReNI and Cara-Friend, as well as Amnesty International, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) and the National Union of Students-Union of Students in Ireland (NUS-USI).

The campaign said it has the support of more than 50 major employers.

Sinn Fein Senator Fintan Warfield said: “Civil marriage equality is about protecting our families, neighbours and friends. It is about two people making a commitment to share in the ups and downs of life. It is also about ensuring that the state recognises all of our relationships equally.

“These are rights enjoyed by Irish and British citizens in all other jurisdictions. It is an injustice that we continue to see efforts toward equality blocked in the north.”

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Michelle Devane / PA Wire.