20,000 urge DUP to drop its block on gay marriage in Northern Ireland
A 20,000-strong petition warning the DUP against using Assembly powers to block same-sex marriage laws has been handed in at Stormont.
Northern Ireland remains the only region of the UK or Ireland where gay couples cannot get married after MLAs repeatedly rejected extending the law across the province.
And while the fifth and most recent Assembly debate on the issue saw a majority in favour of same-sex marriage, progress was thwarted by a DUP petition of concern mechanism, which requires majority support from both unionists and nationalists.
Yesterday, the DUP was told it is on "the wrong side of history" as protesters gathered outside Parliament Buildings.
People Before Profit MLA Gerry Carroll presented the petition, which was backed by a number of high-profile figures including leading human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell and Frankie Goes To Hollywood singer Holly Johnson.
Mr Carroll told MLAs that the DUP should "end its veto on marriage equality".
"I say this to the DUP: you are on the wrong side of history; you are on the wrong side of the fight for equality," he said.
"History will not be kind to those who block progress and human rights.
"History will not be kind to those who block equality and deny rights to our LGBT brothers and sisters."
The DUP reiterated, however, that it stands by its "commitment to family values and marriage and will continue to do so", with leader and First Minister Arlene Foster arguing it is not an equality issue.
"Contrary to what has been suggested, the law in Northern Ireland does not disparage or denigrate same-sex relationships, and same-sex couples are not precluded from having a loving, secure, stable and permanent relationship," she said.
"Specific provision has been made to ensure legal recognition for same-sex relationships, and nothing - nothing - turns on the fact that same-sex couples are referred to as 'partners' rather than 'spouses'."