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Northern Ireland: 20,000 March In Favour Of Gay Marriage

Campaigners attend a rally in Belfast to show their support for marriage equality

Campaigners attend a rally in Belfast to show their support for marriage equality

Belfast demo seeks equality for LGBT people


by Mike Hamilton
in Belfast

ABOUT 20,000 gay rights supporters marched through Belfast city centre on Saturday to demand that the legal recognition of same-sex marriage be extended to Northern Ireland.

The protest wound its way through the main shopping district to Belfast City Hall, where a large open-air rally took place.

The action was jointly organised by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU), Amnesty International and the Rainbow Project.

Participants included a wide range of individuals and movements, including LGBT groups, trade unions, charities, human and civil rights organisations, churches, political parties and pressure groups.

The huge turnout surprised even the organisers, who were forced to make repeated calls for participants to use all available space at both sides of the staging to allow thousands more people in to hear from a variety of invited guests.

Among the speakers was ICTU LGBT committee chairman Daire Toner, who said: “I dream one day of getting married, but my dreams are shattered by the laws that govern this state.

“Even if I got married elsewhere, a flight or a train journey would make it invalid.”

Rainbow Project director John O’Doherty added: “The numbers here say it all. We want our voice heard. We need to go out and tell our story, play our part in a new Northern Ireland. They can’t ignore us any more.”

Amnesty International Northern Ireland director Patrick Corrigan put it simply: “All people are equal — the state should protect all people equally.”

In 2005, while under direct rule by Westminster, Northern Ireland became the first part of the UK to introduce civil partnerships, but since the power-sharing institutions were restored at Stormont, the fight for equality has gone into reverse gear.

The most obvious manifestation of this was an attempt to introduce a “conscience clause” amendment to equality law which would have allowed firms owned by people of faith to discriminate against LGBT customers.

Members of the Northern Irish Assembly proposed motions supporting equality in civil marriage four times in the last parliament.

But, each time, the Democratic Unionist Party blocked it, using a device known as a “petition of concern,” which requires majorities on both the nationalist and unionist benches.

Further links:

 

Westminster MPs call for action on same-sex marriage

The rally outside Queen's University

The rally outside Queen’s University

MPs table cross-party motion calling for action on same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland

MPs from a number of parties in Westminster have signed an early-day motion calling on the government to take action to support same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland.

Same-sex couples are allowed to marry in England, Wales and Scotland and the Republic of Ireland this week passed the measure by a landslide public vote, but it continues to be blocked in Northern Ireland by the DUP.

The Democratic Unionist Party has blocked same-sex marriage a number of times by filing a ‘petition of concern’ in the Stormont assembly.

Today, a cross-party group of MPs have filed an EDM congratulating Ireland for its move – and calling for Northern Ireland to follow suit.

The bill’s sponsors include Conservative MP Sir Peter Bottomley, Labour’s Emily Thornberry, Paul Farrelly and Conor McGinn, , and Northern Irish SDLP’s Alasdair McDonnell.

Signatories include the Scottish National Party’s Mhairi Black – who at 20 is the youngest LGB MP to ever sit in Parliament.

The motion states: “That this House congratulates the Republic of Ireland on becoming the first country in the world to endorse the call for marriage equality in a popular vote.

“[This house] believes that Ireland has fulfilled the aspirations of equality campaigners by winning majority support in virtually every parliamentary constituency and concluding the referendum process with a decisive 62 per cent result.

“[This house] notes the remarks of Taoiseach Enda Kenny that those who voted in the privacy of the ballot box made a very public statement in the spirit of generosity, compassion, inclusion, love and equal marriage; recognises the support given by LGBT Irish in Britain, many of whom got the boat or flew back to participate on the day

“[This house] further believes that the Irish vote can serve as a beacon of hope for those still facing oppression; and urges the Government to support LGBT equality around the world, most immediately in Northern Ireland, the only part of the UK and the island of Ireland where same-sex couples will still be barred from availing of their civil liberties.”

Islington South and Finsbury MP Emily Thornberry said: “I’m delighted to have tabled one of the first Early Day Motions of the new Parliament, celebrating this historic victory for equality.

“It’s a sign of remarkable progress that, just 14 years after the Netherlands became the first country in the world to legalize marriage for same sex couples in 2001, Ireland has now increased to 22 the number of countries where full marriage equality is the law of the land.

“But while we celebrate this result, it’s important also to remember that equality cannot be taken for granted across the world, or even within the UK.

“Northern Ireland is now the only part of the British Isles where LGBT couples lack the legal protections and the social recognition that marriage affords, so as advocates of LGBT equality we should all now redouble our efforts to make marriage a right, not a privilege that depends on where you live.”

Councils Call For Marriage Equality

Published on logo 29/05/2015
News Image

 

Belfast, Newtownards and North Down Councils are calling for all couples in Northern Ireland, regardless of sexual orientation, to have the right to civil marriage.

Councillors are set to lead key debates on the equality issue in June.

The move follows the yes vote for equal marriage during the referendum in Ireland last week and is the latest action by Alliance in moving the debate forward in Northern Ireland.

Alliance Councillor Emmet McDonough-Brown said: “Ireland’s result last week has left Northern Ireland out of step on equality issues. As it stands a same sex couple can now legally marry in all other parts of the UK and Ireland and the LGBT community should also have the same rights here.

“The Alliance Party is committed to delivering a shared society for everyone, based on civil and religious liberty and equality for all – regardless of age, gender, disability, race, ethnicity or sexual orientation – and has continually led the way on LGBT issues, including adoption and tackling homophobic bullying in schools.

“Alliance supports the extension of state provided civil marriage to same sex couples, while recognising protections are needed for those faith groups that wish to continue to observe and practise marriage within their beliefs.”

(CD/MH)

Hundreds turn out in support of gay marriage in Northern Ireland just days after the Republic's historic referendum

Belfast Live –  LISA SMYTH

 

The rally outside Belfast City Hall is just the latest event calling for equal rights for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in Northern Ireland

Up to 400 people have taken part in a rally calling for same sex marriage in Northern Ireland.

It comes after last week’s overwhelming yes vote to allow gay people to get married in the Republic of Ireland and just days before Belfast City Council debates the subject.

Speakers at the event outside Belfast City Hall included People Before Profit Alliance councillor Gerry Carroll, Green Party councillor Ross Brown, Malachi O’Hara from the Rainbow Project and the outspoken Rev Chris Hudson from All Souls Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church on Elmwood Avenue in south Belfast.

He hit out angrily at the position of churches across Ireland in relation to same sex marriage.

“They advised the Irish people to vote no as it went against their teachings and the Irish people said, ‘If you don’t mind reverend gentlemen and reverend ladies, we won’t take your advice on this one”, and they went out and showed absolute solidarity with the LGBT community by voting yes.

“This is not an issue between people of faith and the LBGT community and don’t let any fundamentalist Christians tell you that’s true.”

The event was organised by 17-year-old Padraigin Mervyn.

She explained: “I decided to organise this event because I had seen that our Irish brothers and sisters had won their referendum.

PAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty ImagesA couple watch the count at a count centre in Dublin

“I knew that there was hype up North so I discussed with my political party, People Before Profit, and decided while momentum was high I would get an event page set up on Facebook.

“The aim of this event is to begin a wave of protests in attempt to challenge our government, and raise awareness that the LGBT community will no longer sit back and be oppressed.

“No longer do we want to be regarded as second class citizens, it’s time for the people of Northern Ireland to fight back.”

Meanwhile, Amnesty International, the Rainbow Project and Irish Congress of Trade Unions are organising a march calling for same sex marriage to be implemented in Northern Ireland at Writer’s Square in Belfast at 2.30 pm on June 13.

Equality law will change to protect gay teachers, says Ó Ríordáin

The Irish Times – May 28th, 2015 – Ruadhán Mac Cormaic

 

Schools and hospitals will not be able to discriminate over sexuality, Minister says

Luke Field from Cork and Minister of State for Equality Aodhán Ó Ríordáin at the count centre in Dublin for the same-sex marriage referendum. Photograph: Cyril Byrne.

Luke Field from Cork and Minister of State for Equality Aodhán Ó Ríordáin at the count centre in Dublin for the same-sex marriage referendum. Photograph: Cyril Byrne.

 

A planned change to equality law will “raise the bar” so high that schools and hospitals will not be allowed to discriminate against staff or job applicants because they are gay, Minister of State for Equality Aodhán Ó Ríordáin has said.

The Government is working on an amendment to the Employment Equality Act, which allows religious-run schools and hospitals to discriminate in order to maintain their ethos. Advocacy groups and unions say the law has a chilling effect on gay and lesbian teachers, who feel their sexuality could hinder employment or promotion prospects.

Mr Ó Ríordáin said he believed an attempt to repeal section 37.1 of the Act, which gives religious-run workplaces an exemption to discrimination law if an individual undermines their ethos, could be unconstitutional.

Instead, the Government would amend the law so as to “raise the bar of the ‘undermining’ to be so high as to be irrelevant what somebody’s personal life would be”.

Promotion prospects

“Effectively you have a situation where an awful lot of teachers in primary and secondary schools would have voted Yes [in the marriage referendum] on Friday, would have gone out and celebrated over the weekend, possibly went back into their staff rooms on Monday morning and didn’t tell anybody what they were up to because they felt it would impact on their promotion prospects in the school,” Mr Ó Ríordáin said.

He believed this was a workers’ rights issue that affected not only the LGBT community but people who were remarried or cohabiting with their partners.

Mr Ó Ríordáin was speaking on The Irish Times Inside Politics podcast, where he clashed with the chair of the Iona Institute’s board of directors, John Murray.

Commitment

Mr Murray said section 37 should not be changed, but if it was, new text should include a commitment to denominational education. He said schools had a “live and let live” attitude to diversity and respect for people’s private lives.

“There are hundreds of teachers around Ireland who are divorced or remarried. There are many teachers who are living together with somebody, who aren’t married at all. That happens in loads and loads of cases,” he said.

“I’m involved in education for the last 30 years and I’m not aware that there’s a major problem about this, in terms of people being sacked or people losing their jobs or people not being able to do their jobs. It simply isn’t true.”

Under current law, educational or medical institutions controlled by religious orders which promote religious values are not considered to be discriminating if they favour an employee or prospective employee “in order to maintain the religious ethos”.

Repeal or amendment of section 37.1 has been discussed since the early 2000s, when the Equality Authority said it should be reviewed. Any amendment must strike a balance between the right to equality and the right to earn a livelihood, on one hand, and the right to the profession and practice of religion.

Mr Ó Ríordáin hopes the law will be amended by the new school year in September.

Ashers Bakery Owners to Appeal

Editorial:  The McArthur family, who having taken a contract decided that they couldn’t fulfil it due to their Christian beliefs, and then who were taken to court by the Equality Commission NI and had judgement made against them, is to appeal the judgement.

This is a perfectly natural move, and it is one that must be expected.  The fees are not exorbitant (see Civil Appeals Office Fees from 4 April 2011) but the time for a case to heard can be lengthy, currently some cases are in excess of 9 months.

I do honestly believe that both of the two participants in this case would like to get on with their lives, but unfortunately the case has now got a political angle; in particular with some Northern Irish MLA’s and MP’s taking very right of centre positions against the LGBT community.  Allied to which some church groups, in particular the Christian Institute which is funding the McArthur’s case for them.

I will also stress to everyone that the decision to go to the Appeal Courts at this time is controlled by the laws governing when you can submit your Notice to Appeal, and that it has ‘nothing’ to do with the ‘Yes’ vote on marriage equality which has just occurred in the Republic of Ireland.

The two are not linked in any way that I can see.

I am putting links to various news articles here for you to look at and for you to make your own judgement:

Bakery owners Daniel McArthur and his wife Amy arrive at court for the verdict. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 19th May 2015 Picture by Jonathan Porter / Press Eye

Bakery owners Daniel McArthur and his wife Amy arrive at court for the verdict. Press Eye – Belfast – Northern Ireland – 19th May 2015 Picture by Jonathan Porter / Press Eye

MLA Daithí McKay in gay rights appeal

 

Ballymena Times – 07:20Wednesday 27 May 2015

Daithi McKay. (Editorial Image).

Daithi McKay. (Editorial Image).

MLA Daithí McKay has welcomed the Republic’s marriage referendum result and called for the same rights for gay people to be extended North.

More than 62% voted for same-sex marriage – almost 38% were against it in last week’s referendum.

Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK which does not allow gay marriage after England, Wales and Scotland legalised same sex marriage last year.

Sinn Fein Assemblyman, Mr McKay, who was one of the sponsors of a recent debate in the Assembly on the issue, said: “This result was truly seismic and represents the lifting of discrimination against the gay community in the rest of the island of Ireland.

“The North now sticks out like a sore thumb as the only part of these islands, indeed, the only part of far Western Europe that does not permit marriage equality. That does not present a welcoming image to gay people at home or abroad.

“I do not see the sense in not giving gay couples the freedom to marry in Ballymena or Ballycastle in their own communities and with their own families when they have the right to do so in Dundalk and Donegal.

“Sinn Féin will continue to work towards equality for members of the LGBT community. I am delighted with the result of the referendum.

“I will be even more delighted when I see the same rights being extended to gay men and women here in North Antrim and the North as a whole,” said the Sinn Fein Assemblyman.

What Ireland’s Same-Sex Marriage Vote Means for Northern Ireland

Outward
EXPANDING THE LGBTQ CONVERSATION
MAY 27 2015 8:00 AM

Par527896
In December 2005, supporters of same-sex marriage stand in front of protesters vehemently opposed to “anything approaching gay marriage” outside Belfast City Hall as the first partnership ceremonies for U.K. same-sex couples are held.*

Photo by Peter Muhly/AFP/Getty Images

A month before the Irish people gave their wholehearted support to marriage equality, the Northern Ireland Assembly voted down same-sex marriage for the fourth time. It was embarrassing then, but after the referendum in the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland’s status as the only nation in the British Isles willing to deny same-sex couples the right to marriage—an outpost of homophobic discrimination in Western Europe—is even more disgraceful and unjustifiable.

Northern Ireland’s ignoble status is, on one level, a product of the British political system. Marriage is a “devolved” issue, meaning that England and Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland have their own laws on same-sex marriage. The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013, which introduced marriage equality to England and Wales, did not apply to Northern Ireland, although the law did specify that same-sex marriages entered into in England and Wales are recognized as civil partnerships in Northern Ireland.

Yet the absence of same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland is clearly also a matter of political unwillingness. This doesn’t come from the nationalist parties. Both Sinn Fein and the Social Democratic and Labour Party support it, as does the nonsectarian Alliance Party (although some Alliance and SDLP members were mysteriously missing during the recent vote on same-sex marriage). The problem in Northern Ireland is very much the Democratic Unionist Party.

Since it was established by Ian Paisley in 1971, the DUP has been associated with social conservatism and Protestant fundamentalism. Paisley and the DUP were behind the Save Ulster From Sodomy campaign, founded in 1977, which sought for years to prevent the decriminalization of homosexuality in Northern Ireland. The DUP opposed civil partnerships for gay and lesbian couples at the time they were made law in 2005 (and still does), just as it opposes marriage equality today.

Homophobia is inherent to the DUP. Ian Paisley Jr., a member of the U.K. parliament, showed that the apple didn’t fall very far from the tree when he said he was “repulsed” by homosexuality. Iris Robinson, wife of Northern Ireland’s first minister,called homosexuality “disgusting, loathsome, nauseating, wicked, and vile.” And Jim Wells recently resigned as the region’s health minister after saying, “You don’t bring a child up in a homosexual relationship. That … child is far more likely to be abused and neglected.”

Political homophobia is connected with religious power. Northern Irish people find themselves living under what has been called “essentially a theocratic regime,” due to the hold the Calvinist fundamentalist Free Presbyterian Church has over the DUP. A recent study found that Free Presbyterianism “remains the largest faith among both DUP members and elected representatives.” As many as 30.5 percent of DUP members are Free Presbyterians, compared with a measly 0.6 percent of the Northern Irish population at large.

Since the 1970s, Northern Ireland’s LGBTQ activists have used the court system as one path to legal and social change. Indeed, it is because of the European Court of Human Rights that homosexuality was decriminalized in Northern Ireland. In the case of Dudgeon v the United Kingdom, the court ruled that the criminalization of male homosexual acts violated Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights with regard to the respect for private and family life. (The plaintiff, Jeff Dudgeon, had been persecuted by Northern Irish police throughout the 1970s on account of his homosexuality.)

This month, a court in Belfast ruled against Ashers Baking Co., a Christian-run bakery that refused service to a gay activist who wanted them to make a cake that included a slogan in support of same-sex marriage.* The judge determined that a business run for profit could not use freedom of religion to exempt itself from anti-discrimination law. Right now, there is a challenge underway to the Northern Irish government’s nonrecognition of same-sex marriages conducted in other parts of the United Kingdom.

Alongside the legal route, a mass demonstration organized by the Rainbow Project, Amnesty International, and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions is planned for June 13 in Belfast. “Northern Ireland is now the last bastion of discrimination against gay people in these islands,” Amnesty’s Northern Ireland Program Director Patrick Corrigan said. “People in Northern Ireland are sick of living in a discriminatory backwater for gay people.” Faced with a sclerotic political system, the courts and the streets are, for now, the gay community’s best hopes of overturning the status quo.

*Correction, May 27, 2015: This article originally misstated that Ashers Baking Co. refused service to a gay couple. It was gay activist Gareth Lee who ordered the cake. Also, due to a photo provider error, the caption on this photo originally misstated that the people in the photo were protesting same-sex marriage. The people standing in front of the banner are supporters of same-sex marriage.

Liam Hoare is a freelance writer whose work on politics and literature features in theForward and the Tower. He is a graduate of University College London’s School of Slavonic and East European Studies.

Say 'I do' in Ireland: Tourism Ireland targets LGBT visitors with 'dreamily romantic' weddings

Travel News – Pól Ó Conghaile  PUBLISHED 25/05/2015 | 16:14

 

Saying yes to tourism

Senator Katherine Zappone and partner Ann Louise Gilligan celebrate the Yes vote after the referendum on same sex marriage. Photo: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Getty Images
Senator Katherine Zappone and partner Ann Louise Gilligan celebrate the Yes vote after the referendum on same sex marriage. Photo: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Getty Images

It may be September before same-sex marriage can take place in Ireland, but tourism chiefs have lost little time inviting LGBT couples to celebrate their weddings here.

Tourism Ireland unveiled its new campaign – “Ireland says I do” – just a day after the historic marriage referendum was carried.

On Saturday, Ireland became the first country in the world to introduce same sex marriage by popular vote, with 62.1pc of people voting Yes.

A day later, Tourism Ireland’s campaign began highlighting “dreamily romantic locations to tie the knot” and honeymoon on the island.

The campaign is being targeted at members of the LGBT community in nine overseas markets including Britain, the United States, Canada, the Nordic region, Australia, France, Spain, Italy and Germany.

It focuses on Facebook, Ireland.com and a new video showcasing The Outing (below), the world’s first-ever LGBT matchmaking festival, an offshoot of the Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival, which takes place in October.

“The Yes vote absolutely will have a positive impact on tourism,” Brian Finnegan, Editor of Gay Community News magazine, told Independent.ie Travel.

“In cities like San Francisco, Sydney or Berlin there is a sense of equality. People feel safe to be openly gay and express affection in public. The vote de-stigmatises… and that is bound to have a strong effect.”

Many gay couples from Ireland have travelled to Spain, Canada and New York City to get married, he adds.

“So why shouldn’t LGBT visitors come to Ireland for the same reason?”

Research unveiled at World Travel Market 2014 showed the annual spend on travel by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people exceeded USD$200 billion (€181bn) for the first time in 2014.

The fact that Ireland has become the first place in the world to introduce same sex marriage by popular vote could also be a reason in itself to visit, Finnegan adds.

“This sends a message that Ireland is a leader in terms of equality, respect and human dignity. The photos from the day of celebration portray Ireland as a wonderfully colourful and exciting country.

“Why shouldn’t that attract people to visit?”

Gay marriage vote is food for thought for unionists

Younger voters are strongly in favour of gay marriage

 

News Letter – 10:11 Tuesday 26 May 2015

Is the Republic more British than Northern Ireland?

After last week’s overwhelming popular vote in favour of equal civil marriage in the Republic, Northern Ireland is now the only part of the British Isles in which it is illegal for gay people to marry.

John McCallister

John McCallister

Gay couples can marry in Cardiff, Dublin, Edinburgh and London – but not Belfast.

For unionists, this should at least give pause for thought. An enduring theme in unionist political thought has been – in the words of the Ulster Covenant of 1912 – “our cherished position of equal citizenship in the United Kingdom”. It is why unionists opposed Home Rule: the fear that rights and liberties would be eroded in a Home Rule Parliament dominated by one narrow theological perspective.

That probably sounds a bit ironic now. Now it looks as if Northern Ireland, out of step with the British mainstream, is the last part of the British Isles in which a narrow theological agenda holds sway in politics.

This is not about excluding people of faith and faith communities from the public square. After all, the referendum campaign in the Republic included vibrant, lively debates within faith communities about equal civil marriage, with some faith leaders backing the Yes vote.

It is also obvious that very many people of faith voted Yes, and did so on the basis of their values of respecting the dignity of all people.

This gives us a sense of what this issue is actually about. It is about respect. It is about pluralism. It is about recognising that all citizens, irrespective of sexual orientation, have rights and liberties. It is about recognising that widening marriage to include gay and lesbian couples strengthens both marriage and our society.

And that is why there is equal civil marriage everywhere else in the United Kingdom – because central to British values has been a progressive widening of the scope of liberty, to strengthen the bonds that unite us as a society.

For political unionisim to opt out and oppose this, raises some difficult questions about how unionism sees its future. Pro-Union politics should be about promoting a vision of Northern Ireland fully sharing in the freedoms, opportunities and pluralism of the modern United Kingdom – not being a place apart, embarrassed about mainstream British values.

I know some unionist politicians vote against equal civil marriage on the assumption that it is the only politically ‘safe’ thing to do. I have two words in response to this – Danny Kinahan.

The Ulster Unionist MP for South Antrim was one of only four unionist MLAs – I was one of them – to vote in favour of equal civil marriage in the recent Assembly debate. Danny did so in the midst of his campaign in South Antrim. And he won the Westminster seat. The lesson? Pro-Union voters don’t fear equal civil marriage.

Unionism needs to have a serious conversation about not the next 10 months, but about the next 10 years. Younger voters are strongly in favour of equal civil marriage. They see it as normal and routine everywhere else in the British Isles.

They cannot understand why if marriage is good for society, it can’t be legal for their brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles who are gay.

And when it comes to deciding whether to vote or not, they will not be able to understand why unionism, which says it is serious about Northern Ireland being a full part of the United Kingdom, believes in equal citizenship for some, but not for all.

John McCallister is an independent MLA for South Down