Northern Ireland: Equal marriage campaign group launched

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A new campaigning group, Equal Marriage NI, has been launched to push for marriage equality between gay and straight couples in Northern Ireland.

The group includes representatives from bodies including The Rainbow Project NI, NUS-USI, GLYNI and the Queen’s University Belfast LGBT Society.

Last month, a survey into social attitudes and discrimination in Northern Ireland suggested a quarter of people would object to having a gay or bisexual neighbour and four in ten would object to a close relative forming a relationship with a gay or bisexual person.

At a meeting at Queen’s University Belfast, the campaign group discussed turning “negativity into positives” with a goal of lobbying the Northern Ireland assembly to repeal the 2003 Marriage Order that bars gay marriages.

Reference was made to the fact there is currently no “home grown” legislation protecting gay and transgender people.

John O’Doherty of the Rainbow Project said that opposition to marriage equality was about putting the LGBT community “back in the closet”.

Speaking on the society within Northern Ireland, Henry Adams of the National Union of Students and the Union of students in Ireland called on politicians to “Do what they say in their manifestos; Work to create a society that all can share.”

One speaker added: “Marriage is a human right and not a heterosexual privilege.”

LGBT officer at the NUS-USI Rachel Wallace spoke of student roles within the struggle for basic rights, adding: “As part of the Equal Marriage movement we may experience intimidation; however ‘separate but equal’ is not equal.”

She added: “The LGBT community do not have to campaign alone, and indeed cannot.”

Sinn Fein MLA Caitiona Ruane said: “Equality will only be achieved by instating full marriage for Gay and Lesbian couples.”

She said her party was “100% in support of equality and will be leading the way, along with other parties” on this matter.

Organisers said the Sinn Fein MLA could apply substantial pressure as the Chief Whip to her party and also as Equality Spokesperson and a Policing Board member.

Event organiser Gary Spedding said the “campaign is not an attack [especially on religion], it is about equality before the law.”

He added: “If we accept LGBT partnerships as unequal, we risk accepting further inequalities further down the road”.

Event organisers said another meeting would be scheduled to further the campaign.