Coca-Cola, BT and and more back same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland

Nearly 30 leading businesses—including Coca-Cola, BT, Santander, and PwC—have signed an open letter calling for marriage equality in Northern Ireland.

Top employers with offices in the country have added to the increasing pressure for same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland, saying they want LGBT+ staff to “be themselves and to live and work, free from discrimination, prejudice or exclusion.”

Other signatories on the letter include Citi, Pinsent Masons, Bank of Ireland, Deloitte, IBM, Axiom and Baker McKenzie.

“A diverse, outward-looking and inclusive society is essential to create a vibrant and competitive economy and a prosperous future for Northern Ireland,” the letter reads.

“To achieve that goal, we believe our people should have equal access to the same rights, entitlements, responsibilities and freedoms enjoyed elsewhere in the United Kingdom.

“As employers, striving to attract the best talent to Northern Ireland and to retain the skilled employees we already have, extending equal civil marriage in Northern Ireland makes sense to us.”

Research has shown that there is majority support for equal marriage in Northern Ireland, both from the public and the Northern Ireland Assembly.

In April, a Sky News poll found that 76 percent of people in Northern Ireland support marriage equality.

A PinkNews poll in June found that women across the UK backed same-sex marriage in the country more than men. 83 percent of British women said they would support gay marriage, compared to 70 percent of men.

Top businesses have called for same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland. (Love Equality)

In November 2015, a majority of MLAs in the Assembly voted in support of introducing same-sex marriage, but this was blocked by the Democratic Unionist Party.

Campaigners fear that following the collapse of power-sharing government in Northern Ireland in January 2017, it could be many years before same-sex marriage is introduced in the region because it has been repeatedly blocked by the DUP—unless UK Prime Minister Theresa May intervenes.

May has insisted the issue must wait for the restoration of devolved government in Northern Ireland—but campaigners say she is sacrificing LGBT+ rights to appease the DUP, which are currently supporting a Conservative minority government on a case-by-case basis in Westminster.

Petre Sandru, country manager of Coca-Cola Ireland, said: “We know that creating an environment where everyone can reach their full potential, regardless of gender, age, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion, ability or socio-economic background, is key to driving businesses forward.

“We also believe that everyone has the right to be themselves both outside and inside the workplace, which is why we support this important initiative.”

Campaigners take part in a march through Belfast on July 1, 2017 to protest against the ban on same-sex marriage. (PAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty)

Love Equality has organised several mass rallies in Northern Ireland calling for gay marriage.

In June, about 20,000 people marched in support of marriage equality through Northern Ireland’s capital Belfast.

Paul Terrington, PwC Northern Ireland regional chair and head of UK regions, said “As a major UK business, we recruit talent regardless of gender, ethnicity or orientation.

“Extending equal civil marriage to Northern Ireland is important to our people and to reinforce our UK-wide commitment to be a welcoming equal-opportunity employer.”