Sir Ian McKellen: Northern Ireland must not be left behind on equal marriage

Sir Ian McKellen has warned that Northern Ireland should not “be the victims” of misleading arguments against same-sex marriage.

Same-sex marriage is law in England, Wales and Scotland and the Republic of Ireland – but in Northern Ireland, the Democratic Unionist Party has blocked it repeatedly.

Today, a majority of the Northern Irish Assembly voted in favour of equal marriage – only to be blocked for a fifth time by the DUP under powers handed down via the peace process.

Despite 50.5% of MLAs voting in favour, the DUP used a ‘petition of concern’ – a statutory instrument that was intended to ensure power-sharing between communities – to block the issue progressing.

Only 30 MLAs are required to sign a petition of concern to block a bill – meaning the DUP can comfortably block legislation with its 38 lawmakers.

Sir Ian McKellen told PinkNews: “As a gay Englishman, whose ancestors hail from County Antrim, I am concerned that the Northern Ireland Assembly should establish full legal equality for LGBT residents in Northern Ireland.

“Northern Irish people should not be the victims at home of specious arguments in favour of inequality. They should not have to travel to Britain nor to the Republic, to be treated equally.

“Just as coming out as a gay person, changes one’s life entirely for the better, coming out as a country, in favour of equality, will bring credit to the entire citizenry, regardless of their sexuality or gender.”

Speaking prior to the vote, he said: “I hope the vote will give us all a chance to celebrate the unity of civil rights already enjoyed by LGBT people in adjacent countries.”

The Director of The Rainbow Project, John O’Doherty, said the DUP have “abused the petition of concern to block this vote and are now ignoring the will of the Assembly and the people of Northern Ireland” – but hailed the parliamentary majority.