Northern Irish DUP faces protests after ‘abusing’ peace powers to veto same-sex marriage

LGBT activists are planning to protest the conference of Northern Ireland’s DUP – after the party used powers from the peace process to veto same-sex marriage.

Same-sex weddings are now permitted in England, Scotland, Wales and the Republic of Ireland – but it continues to be blocked in Northern Ireland by the DUP.

Earlier this month a majority of the Northern Irish Assembly voted in favour of equal marriage by 53 to 51 – but the Democratic Unionist Party used a ‘petition of concern’  to strike proposals down for a fifth time.

The group has been criticised for “abusing” petitions of concern, which were introduced to encourage power-sharing and cross-community support between Unionists and Nationalists and allows MLAs to  ‘veto’ legislation they deem to harm one community.

As the DUP holds its party conference in Belfest this Saturday, a group of LGBT activists have announced a planned protest.

Courtney Robinson, spokesperson for the group ‘Fight4Equality‘, said: “On 2nd November, the DUP misused a petition of concern to block marriage equality, despite a majority of MLAs finally voting in favour and polls showing up to 68% support for same-sex marriage rights.

“It seems the DUP is democratic in name only.”

“Undoubtedly, protest and public pressure were key to winning a majority for marriage equality in the Assembly… politicians can and should be made to fear that opposing LGBT rights will lose them votes.”

Acknowledging other opponents of equality, she continued: “The DUP’s undemocratic manoeuvres are now the main barrier to winning marriage equality at Stormont.

“The fate of Jim Wells – who was forced to resign as Health Minister after making homophobic comments – is a warning to the DUP that ordinary people, including many of their voters, are sick of homophobia and want to live in a society free of discrimination.”

Organisers have warned participants not to use symbols or slogans “which could be perceived as sectarian or divisive”.