Marriage equality campaigners urge UK govt. to extend rights to Northern Ireland

Same-sex couples can’t legally marry in Northern Ireland. | Photo: Belfast Pride/Facebook Marriage equality activists have urged the UK government to extend same-sex marriage laws to Northern Ireland.

Campaigners said they will increase the pressure on Westminster to spread marriage equality to all parts of the UK.

Stephen Donnan, a campaigner with LGBTI rights group Love Equality, spoke to the Belfast Telegraph .

‘While the UK legalized same-sex marriages in 2015, Northern Ireland still only has civil unions. This includes same-sex couples who were married in parts of the UK outside of Northern Ireland, who would only be recognized as civil partners in the country,’ he adds. ‘We cannot wait any longer’

For Donnan, the fight is personal. He and his partner, William, will be entering into a civil partnership at the end of January.

They are eager to see marriage equality reach Northern Ireland within the next year.

‘Too much time has been lost for same-sex couples who wish to get married here,’ said Donnan.

‘We cannot wait any longer and I don’t see why we should have to. We are either equal citizens in the United Kingdom or we are not, and currently, we are not.

‘After our civil partnership ceremony later this month, we, our families and friends will consider us married. But I know that when I take my vows it will sting a bit when I say ‘I take you as my civil partner’ rather than ‘I take you as my husband,’ he added. Many obstacles still remain in Northern Ireland

In October last year, Northern Ireland came one step closer to legalizing marriage equality and abortion after a bill passed through parliament .

But major obstacles remain in the heavily Christian nation.

In 2015, a majority of Northern Ireland’s parliament voted for marriage equality. But the conservative Christian Democratic Unionist Party blocked the move.

Northern Ireland also has the lowest same-sex adoption rates in the UK .

Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty International’s Northern Ireland Programme Director, said that the country was lagging ‘years behind’ the rest of the UK with regards to LGBTI rights.

‘Same-sex couples in Northern Ireland are tired of being treated as second-class citizens in their own country,’ Corrigan said.

‘In 2019 we will build on existing support across parties in both the House of Commons and House of Lords and we will be asking the Government to stop turning their backs on LGBT+ people.’