Protest planned for gay marriage equality in the North of Ireland

Protest planned for gay marriage equality in the North of Ireland

PROTESTORS will march in Belfast next month calling for the same gay marriage rights for the people of the North that have been passed by popular vote in the south of Ireland.

Following the historic outcome of Friday’s same-sex marriage referendum, Amnesty international and LGBT groups based in the North will host The March for Civil Marriage Equality through Belfast on Saturday, June 13.

Kicking off at Writers' Square at 2.30pm, the rally will make its way to Belfast City Hall, Amnesty International’s Northern Ireland Programme Director Patrick Corrigan confirmed over the weekend.

The campaigners behind the demonstration – jointly organised by Amnesty International, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and the North of Ireland’s Rainbow Project LGBT group – hope it will help bring the laws of the North in line with the needs of its LGBT community.

“Northern Ireland is now the last bastion of discrimination against gay people in these islands,” Mr Corrigan said, acknowledging the 62 per cent vote achieved in favour of legalising same-sex marriage in the Republic of Ireland on Friday.

“The historic [referendum] result will echo around the world,” he added.

“It shows how a once socially-conservative country can transform itself into a beacon of equality.”

Now the human rights organisation hopes the positive outcome witnessed in the Republic over the weekend can be built on in the North.

“Northern Ireland’s discriminatory laws are a badge of shame, not to be worn by the people of Northern Ireland, a majority of whom support same-sex marriage, but by those politicians who oppose equal treatment for the LGBTI community,” Mr Corrigan explained.

“The Northern Ireland Executive should waste no more time in fulfilling its first duty to its people - to ensure that none are treated as second-class citizens.”

He added: “People in Northern Ireland are sick of living in a discriminatory backwater for gay people.

"Most people here want to live in a country where such discrimination is consigned to the dustbin of history. They want to live in a place where all citizens are guaranteed equal rights and equal opportunities - that’s the message of the march for equality.”

Similar calls have been heard around the world, as the dust settles on the Irish referendum, with LGBT campaigners in Germany, Italy and Australia all calling on their respective governments to follow Ireland’s example and legalise same-sex marriage.

In Germany Jens Spahn, an openly gay member of the Christian Democratic Union party, claimed “what the Catholic Irish can do, we can do too”, while urging Chancellor Angela Merkel to implement marriage equality for the nation.

Politicians also called for a “fast track” approach to legalising marriage equality in Italy – which currently does not recognise same-sex marriage or civil unions.

“Now it is Italy’s turn,” Democratic Party leader Roberto Speranza said over the weekend, “the moment has arrived, finally, to approve this before the summer’s end.”

However Prime Minister Tony Abbott has ruled out holding any such referendum in Australia.

"Referendums are held in this country where there's a proposal to change the constitution," he said.

"I don't think anyone is suggesting the constitution needs to be changed in this respect."

In response, opposition leader Bill Shorten said: "If the Irish people can vote in favour of marriage equality, the question has to be asked, what is Tony Abbott's problem with it?

"Most places in the world are dealing with marriage equality, why is Tony Abbott stopping Australia becoming a more modern nation?” he added.