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Stars back marriage equality ahead of huge Belfast march on Saturday

Liam Neeson, Gary Lightbody, Graham Norton, Stephen Fry, Bronagh Waugh and Neil Hannon add their voices to call for same-sex couples to be able to marry in Northern Ireland

Some of the world’s biggest stars have voiced their support for the introduction of equal civil marriage for same-sex couples in Northern Ireland. The celebrities, from the worlds of film, music and TV, including some of Northern Ireland’s biggest names, have also sent their best wishes to the thousands of people expected to take part in a 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).

Ballymena-born Hollywood actor Liam Neeson said:

“We’ve had enough of a history in our society in Northern Ireland of discrimination, mistrust and hatred. Yet, we’re also an open hearted, welcoming and terrific people. Let us show that to the world by treating gay, lesbian and transgender peoples as our brothers and sisters and allowing them to marry, if they so wish. By joining the rest of Ireland and other western countries in celebrating equality we can also attract more investment to our province. 

“We have shown the world how we can affect a peace accord when many thought it impossible (Good Friday Agreement). We must act on this and welcome all members of society through civil marriages, while still keeping our Christian values. Love, is love, is love.” 

Bangor-born Gary Lightbody, lead singer of Snow Patrol, said:

“Two years ago, I marched with 20,000 fellow Northern Ireland citizens for marriage equality. It was a beautiful day of hope, joy and solidarity and I was so proud to be from Norn Iron.

“Two years on and somehow - defying reason given it’s the will of the people - we still do not have marriage equality in Northern Ireland.

“We’re in the States making our new album, so we can’t be there in person to march again for marriage equality, for togetherness, for reason and for love! Everyone in Snow Patrol will be there in spirit.

“I hope the day is as special (even more special) than 2 years ago and I hope those that should listen to the will of the people do listen. Surely, they must. Surely. One love!”

TV star Graham Norton is also backing the campaign for marriage equality in Northern Ireland. He said:

“The day that Irish people voted for equal marriage rights for their fellow citizens was such a proud gay day! It moved me to tears because it was something I never dared hope would happen.

“My own mother was from Northern Ireland, so of course I have a huge affection for the place and its people. I know it is hugely frustrating for gay people there that it is the last part of these islands still without marriage equality. Especially when there is such overwhelming support for it among the public.

“My heart is with all those who will be marching for civil marriage equality in Belfast on July 1st. Go you!”

Stephen Fry, who married comedian Elliott Spencer in January 2015, said:

“I send my love to the people of Northern Ireland. Especially all those couples striving and marching for the right to marry and have their love celebrated.

“Why should loving couples in Northern Ireland be denied this chance of happiness, of equality, enjoyed by people in every other part of these wonderful islands? It doesn’t make sense.

“Simply put, I want the same joy that I have found to be available to people in Northern Ireland.”

Derry/Londonderry-born musician Neil Hannon of The Divine Comedy said:

“I'm delighted to lend my support to this cause and to this event. I am one hundred percent behind the fight for marriage equality in Northern Ireland.

“The inexorable march towards equality and acceptance of all sexual orientations and genders in recent decades has been a joy to behold. Many brave people have put themselves in the firing line in pursuit of the dream. Thankfully they are now claiming victory after victory across Europe and the wider world. I fervently hope for the same in our little part of that world.

“In the immortal words of Lenny Kravitz - Let Love Rule!!

“Have a great day.”

Coleraine-born Bronagh Waugh, best known for her role alongside Jamie Dornan in The Fall, who will host the rally at Belfast City Hall, said:

“With the spotlight being shone on Northern Ireland at the minute, now is our chance to really step up our campaigning a gear and give Northern Ireland what it so clearly wants and deserves, finally... equal marriage. This is a human rights issue. We will not rest until everyone in Northern Ireland has equal rights like the rest of the UK.”

Patrick Corrigan, Northern Ireland programme director for Amnesty International, one of the organisers of this Saturday’s Love Equality march, said:

“We really welcome everyone’s support for the campaign. Frankly, it’s overwhelming to have such high-profile support from around the world for our equality campaign in Northern Ireland.

“So many people remember the joy felt around the world two years ago when the Republic of Ireland voted for marriage equality. We want to experience that same joy in Northern Ireland by achieving the same equality for loving couples.

“That’s why we are expecting big numbers to take to the streets of Belfast this Saturday in a celebration of love and a demand for equality.”

The equal marriage march will take place in Belfast on Saturday 1 July, assembling at Writers’ Square in Belfast at 2:30pm, culminating in a rally in front of Belfast City Hall.

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.

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