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Scotland’s political leaders back marriage equality in Northern Ireland ahead of huge Belfast march on Saturday

Nicola Sturgeon, Ruth Davidson, Kezia Dugdale, Patrick Harvie and Willie Rennie unite in call for same-sex couples to be able to marry in Northern Ireland

Political leaders across Scotland have united in their support for the introduction of equal civil marriage for same-sex couples in Northern Ireland ahead of a huge march for marriage equality in Belfast this Saturday (1 July).

Northern Ireland is currently the only part of the UK or Ireland where same-sex couples can’t marry, despite widespread public support for equal marriage (70% according to an Ipsos MORI poll in June 2016).

First Minister of Scotland and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon said:

“I was proud to play a part in the introduction of equal marriage legislation in Scotland and have been thrilled to see the positive reaction to equal marriage across the country. The debate over equal marriage in Scotland did more than just simply allow people to marry, it also helped to challenge negative attitudes that still exist today in our society towards LGBTI people and show, quite simply, that same-sex couples are just as valued as opposite sex couples.

“I offer my support to those continuing the campaign for marriage equality in Northern Ireland.”

Scottish Conservative and Unionist Leader Ruth Davidson said:

“I’m proud to support those campaigning for marriage equality and I’m optimistic that this is a battle that can be won. Equal marriage isn’t about one religion or country or community. It’s much simpler than that. At its heart, equal marriage is about the people of Northern Ireland being afforded the same rights as everybody else.

“So as thousands march in Belfast this Saturday, I have this message for them. Change is coming. And it’s a change for the better.”

Scottish Labour Leader Kezia Dugdale said:

“I was proud to campaign for marriage equality in Scotland and even prouder to see it delivered when the Scottish Parliament passed it into legislation. Scotland, England, Wales and the Republic of Ireland have all now backed equal marriage, and it has been liberating and encouraging to see such progress make the news and headlines in places around the world where marriage equality is sadly still so far away.

“I’m backing the campaign for marriage equality in Northern Ireland. I know there will be opposing views on this and the debate must be conducted courteously, but I firmly believe it’s time for LGBT people across the whole of the UK to enjoy the right to marry who they want.”

Co-convener of the Scottish Green Party Patrick Harvie said:

“The huge progress that’s been made toward equality here and across the world has not always been easy, and would never have happened if people had settled for the status quo. We must not settle for the current treatment of same-sex couples in Northern Ireland, or just accept that the prejudice of the DUP will never be overcome. Most people in Northern Ireland support marriage equality, a majority of the Assembly supports marriage equality, and we will campaign relentlessly with our friends in Northern Ireland until they achieve that goal.”

Scottish Liberal Democrats Leader Willie Rennie said:

“Equality in marriage for everyone is a mark of a society. The world has not collapsed since we introduced it in Scotland. In fact, it has brought joy to many lives. I would urge the political representatives of Northern Ireland to embrace it too.” 

Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty International’s Head of Nations and Regions, said:

“We welcome this strong support from Scottish political leaders for marriage equality in Northern Ireland. We hope they will continue to work to persuade their fellow politicians at Stormont and Westminster that all UK citizens should be able to marry the person they love and that the law should be changed accordingly.

“We have been overwhelmed with high-profile support from across the UK and Ireland and from around the world for our equality campaign in Northern Ireland. We vividly remember the joyful celebrations when the Republic of Ireland voted for marriage equality two years ago. It is time for couples in Northern Ireland to be able to join in the wedding celebrations.”

The equal marriage march will take place in Belfast on Saturday 1 July, starting at Writers’ Square in Belfast at 2:30pm, culminating in a rally in front of Belfast City Hall. The march will be led by Belfast Lord Mayor Councillor Nuala McAllister, while the rally will be addressed by same-sex couples who want to be able to marry in Northern Ireland.

The march is being organised by the Love Equality campaign, led by the Rainbow Project, Amnesty International, Irish Congress of Trade Unions, Cara-Friend, NUS-USI and HereNI. Thousands took part in a similar march in Belfast in June 2015.

Note: Ruth Davidson also published an article calling for equal marriage in Northern Ireland in today’s (Friday) edition of The Times: Equal marriage in Northern Ireland is long overdue, says Ruth Davidson (text also available on request).

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