Alliance leader Naomi Long tells PinkNews summer reception in Belfast: Lack of LGBT rights is causing ‘personal suffering’

Naomi Long, the leader of the Alliance Party, has reaffirmed called for equal marriage at the PinkNews summer reception in Belfast, supported by Citi.

Long, speaking at the Parliament of Northern Ireland in the country’s capital on Thursday (June 28), told attendees:

Long has been the leader of the Alliance Party, the fifth largest party in Northern Ireland, since 2016 and has continuously supported marriage equality – voting for equal marriage in England and Wales while serving as an MP.

Naomi Long speaking in Downing Street (Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty)

At the event she said: “Things in Northern Ireland are not as they should be for LGBT people. Rights are denied, equality is frustrated, and people are suffering personally as a result.”

She paid tribute to the LGBT community despite the ‘fundamentally personal nature of the intrusion of denying you the right to marry the person you love.”

Long also criticised the lack of sex education in Northern Ireland and the failure to tackle homophobic bullying.

On Thursday, a cross-party group of Northern Irish politicians gathered at the third regional reception held by PinkNews this summer to debate LGBT+ topics from education to same-sex marriage.

Politicians and campaigners from across the party spectrum came together to hear prominent figures including Democratic Unionist Party leader Arlene Foster, Sinn Féin deputy leader Michelle O’Neill speak on current LGBT+ topics, celebrate the achievements of Northern Ireland’s LGBT+ community and highlight what is still to be done.

The former Lord Mayor of Belfast has supported LGBT causes both as an MP and as a member of the Northern Ireland Assembly, and has consistently voted in favour of marriage equality in both Northern Ireland and England and Wales.

Naomi Long speaks to press (Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty)

In 2013, the former MP was one of the only Northern Irish MPs to vote in favour of bringing marriage equality to England and Wales.

Of the 13 MPs eligible to take part, only Long and one other MP voted in favour of the proposal.

Northern Ireland is currently the only part of the UK that continues to ban same-sex marriage, due to opposition from the ultra-conservative DUP.

Long has been supportive of the recent campaign to bring same-sex marriage to Northern Ireland, supporting the petition of a group of LGBT teenagers presented on Valentine’s Day this year.

The petition was presented in the form of a huge Valentine’s Day card and the teenagers brought several heart-shaped balloons to demonstrate their support for the Love Equality campaign.

On June 7, at the PinkNews summer reception in Cardiff the First Minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones, championed inclusive sex and relationship education.

PinkNews’ Cai Wilshaw and Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones (Elizabeth Iafrate and Jon Pountney)

He told the audience: “Too often we just assume the LGBT community know politicians are on their side.”

“We’re going in the right direction but we are committed to going further. We want an education system based on equality.”

On June 20, Scottish Conservatives leader Ruth Davidson told attendees at the PinkNews summer reception in Edinburgh that she was a proud “political party leader and pregnant lesbian.”

Prompting applause from the audience, Davidson, speaking at the Scottish Parliament in the country’s capital, said: “In my lifetime, people could be prosecuted for being in a loving same-sex relationship… we’ve seen these same couples who could have been prosecuted now able to marry their partner.

Ruth Davidson speaks (Ashley Coombes)

“And if we look at societal change, it’s even greater than that – I’m standing here leader of political party, a pregnant lesbian, my office is full of bibs and babygros and baby products,” she added, to applause from the audience.

“I still get hate mail, everyone does,” she added, “but it’s vastly outweighed by the kindness and support that we see all around the country.”

The PinkNews summer reception in Belfast was supported by Citi.