Amnesty International: Northern Ireland has been ‘left behind’ on equal marriage

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Amnesty International has spoken out against Northern Ireland’s continuing ban on same-sex marriage.

The Republic of Ireland’s Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald brought forward a Marriage Bill this morning, after the country overwhelmingly voted in favour of equality in May this year, in a public referendum on same-sex marriage.

The move means weddings are likely to begin in Ireland in a matter of months – but in Northern Ireland, equality continues to be blocked.

The Democratic Unionist Party has vetoed equality bills in the Stormont assembly four times, using powers granted by the country’s peace agreement to file a ‘petition of concern’ on the issue.

Today, Amnesty urged politicians on all sides in Northern Ireland not to be ‘left behind’ on the issue.

Patrick Corrigan, Northern Ireland Programme Director of Amnesty International, said: “The move by the Irish government is a welcome step towards equality for same-sex couples in the Republic of Ireland.

“However, it also underlines the extent to which Belfast has been left behind by London, Dublin, Edinburgh and Cardiff when it comes to equality for gay people.

“Soon Northern Ireland will be the only part of the UK or Ireland where the government bans same-sex couples from getting married and refuses to recognise same-sex marriages conducted elsewhere on these islands.

“Most people in Northern Ireland want to live in a country where unequal laws are consigned to the history books. If Northern Ireland’s politicians continue to fail on equal rights to civil marriage, then it will be left to the Courts.”

In a bid to break the deadlock on the issue, the UK Labour Party recently called for Northern Ireland to follow in the footsteps of the Republic of Ireland, by holding a binding public referendum on the issue.

A number of leading LGBT groups in Northern Ireland have rejected Labour’s calls for a referendum on same-sex marriage.