On Saturday, July 1st, thousands took to the streets of Belfast in protest over the ban on same-sex marriages in Northern Ireland. At the minute, Northern Ireland remains the only part of the United Kingdom and of Ireland, where couples of the same sex cannot marry each other.
‘‘March for Marriage’’ saw demonstrators take to the streets in a cloud of colour, with rainbow flags representing pride and Amnesty International signs stating, ‘Love Is A Human Right.’ Among those who attended were ‘‘trade unionists, gay-rights activists, civil servants, drag queens and same-sex couples.’’
One of the leading parties in Northern Ireland, the Democratic Unionist Party, has vetoed against lifting the ban on same-sex marriage and have blocked passing new legislation. They believe that they are protecting ‘traditional’ marriage between a man and a woman.
So far, the question of introducing same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland has been addressed and voted on five times by members of the Northern Ireland Assembly. In 2015, there was a slim majority in favour of its introduction. However, the DUP used this opportunity to prevent any change by using a Stormont Veto known as a petition of concern.
In response to claims that the party shares homophobic beliefs, the DUP insist that they are ‘‘protecting the ‘tradition’ definition of marriage.’’
Following the results of the March Election, the DUP no longer have a clear majority of seats to hold the petition of concern on their own.
Amnesty International in association with Love Equality worked to organise the march which took place.
Coleraine born, Bronagh Waugh, star of the TV series, ‘The Fall,’ was a prominent figure of the protest and spoke at Belfast City Hall declaring ‘‘With the spotlight on Northern Ireland at the minute, now is our chance to really step up our campaigning a gear and give Northern Ireland what it so clearly wants and deserves, finally-equal marriage.’’
‘‘I’m standing here in solidarity with my brothers and sisters from the LGBT community, this is what the overwhelming majority of people in Northern Ireland want.’’
Other celebrities from Northern Ireland showed support for marriage equality prior to the protest, such as actor Liam Neeson, Snow Patrol’s Gary Lightbody and Presenter Graham Norton.
Ballymena born, Neeson made the announcement that we are ‘‘open-hearted, welcoming and terrific people, let us show that to the world by treating gay, lesbian and transgender peoples as our brothers and sisters and allowing them to marry, if they so wish.’’
While power-sharing talks in the Northern Ireland Assembly continue, marriage equality remains one of the reasons for the delay in reaching a deal.
Both Gerry Adams and Michelle O’ Neill of the Sinn Féin party attended the march on Saturday.
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