Campaigners launch bid to secure equal marriage rights in Northern Ireland
Marriage equality is a Northern Ireland Assembly election issue, campaigners said yesterday as they launched Love Equality, a new political campaign which aims to deliver equal marriage rights for same-sex couples.
Northern Ireland is now the only part of the UK or Ireland where same-sex marriage is barred by law.
The Love Equality campaign aims to secure a change in the law during the Northern Ireland Assembly's five-year term.
The campaign is jointly organised by Northern Ireland's main LGBT organisations, the trade union and student union movements and campaigners Amnesty International.
The organisations say the campaign will not stop until equal marriage rights are part of Northern Ireland law.
"Ever since the Yes vote in the Republic of Ireland, marriage equality has become a big political issue for many voters - straight and gay - in Northern Ireland," said John O'Doherty, who is one of the leaders of the Love Equality campaign.
"Last summer 20,000 people marched through Belfast demanding marriage equality, one of the biggest political demonstrations Northern Ireland has seen in years.
"Those people haven't gone away.
"On May 5 they will be looking for candidates who promise to deliver equality for everyone.
"Marriage equality is now an election issue," Mr O'Doherty told reporters yesterday.
The campaign website - loveequalityni.org - has an 'email your candidate' online tool, to make it easy for supporters to lobby their MLA hopefuls in every constituency in advance of the Assembly election on May 5. Belfast couple Sally Bridge (48) and Catherine Couvert (53) said they wanted the law to give them the chance to marry.
"We've been together for 15 years and raised two sons, two cats and a dog together.
"We're very proud of our family.
"We want young LGBT people to grow up in a world where they don't feel like second class citizens and we want families like ours to have equal rights."
Shane Sweeney (30) from Irvinestown, Co Fermanagh and Eoin Griffin (24) from Belfast hope to get married as soon as the law in Northern Ireland allows it.
Shane said: "Eoin and I have been with each other for four years.
"I met him at a particularly low point in my life and I'd imagine a lot of other people would have just walked away but he didn't.
"I knew he was special from the start."