Northern Ireland: out-of-touch politicians have abdicated responsibility to deliver equality for gay people

Politicians like ‘latter-day King Canutes, trying in vain to hold back the tide of equality’

Amnesty International has accused some Northern Ireland politicians of being out-of-touch with public opinion as MLAs again voted to leave the region as the only part of the UK without civil marriage rights for same-sex couples.

A motion at the Northern Ireland Assembly supporting same-sex marriage was defeated after the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) lodged a Petition of Concern, meaning the proposal could only pass if a majority of both unionists and nationalists support it. In the event, 49 MLAs voted against and 47 for the motion.

Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty International's Northern Ireland Programme Director, said:

“Politicians in Northern Ireland who block civil marriage rights for same-sex couples are like latter-day King Canutes, trying in vain to hold back the tide of equality. 

“Public opinion in Northern Ireland is now firmly on the side of legalisation of civil marriage for same-sex couples by a ratio of two-to-one. Yet, half of our politicians continue to oppose this equality measure, leaving Northern Ireland as a grim, discriminatory backwater for the gay community. 

“States may not discriminate with regards to the right to marry and found a family, on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. This means that marriage should be available to same-sex couples in Northern Ireland, just as it is now in England, Scotland and Wales and may soon be in the Republic of Ireland, following next month’s referendum. If politicians continue with their failure to address this inequality, then it is inevitable that the courts will be asked to intervene.”

Note: Research from the NI Life and Times Survey (conducted late 2013) shows 59% of people support legalisation of same-sex marriage, while 29% oppose it. 

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