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Belfast City Council votes in favour of gay marriage

Published 02/06/2015

(left to right) Erin Reddy, Dee Campbell and Helen McCarthy at the Central Count Centre in Dublin Castle, Dublin as votes are continued to be counted in the referendum on same-sex marriage.
(left to right) Erin Reddy, Dee Campbell and Helen McCarthy at the Central Count Centre in Dublin Castle, Dublin as votes are continued to be counted in the referendum on same-sex marriage.
People gather at the Central Count Centre in Dublin Castle, Dublin as votes are continued to be counted in the referendum on same-sex marriage.
Drag queen and gay rights activist Rory O'Neill (centre), known by his stage name as Panti Bliss has his photo taken with Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams and Minister for Justice and Equality Frances Fitzgerald (right) at the Central Count Centre in Dublin Castle, Dublin, as votes continue to be counted in the referendum on same-sex marriage.
The sun shines as people gather at the Central Count Centre in Dublin Castle, Dublin as votes are continued to be counted in the referendum on same-sex marriage.
Erin Reddy (left) and Dee Campbell at the Central Count Centre in Dublin Castle, Dublin as votes are continued to be counted in the referendum on same-sex marriage.
A gay marriage supporter kisses her rosary beads at the Central Count Centre in Dublin Castle, Dublin, as votes are continued to be counted in the referendum on same-sex marriage.
Bridget Hogg with a cardboard cutout of comedy creation Mrs Brown at the Central Count Centre in Dublin Castle, Dublin as votes are continued to be counted in the referendum on same-sex marriage.
Paul Bonass (left) and Luke Hoare Greene share a kiss at the Central Count Centre in Dublin Castle, Dublin as votes are continued to be counted in the referendum on same-sex marriage Photo. Picture date: Saturday May 23, 2015. Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Jaime Nanci (left) and Michael Barron who were married in Cape Town five years ago at the RDS in Dublin, re-act as early patterns suggest that the campaign to extend the right to marry to same-sex couples will succeed in the referendum on same-sex marriage. Picture date: Saturday May 23, 2015. Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Sean O Tarpaigh, a yes campaigner and Irish language teacher, at the same-sex marriage referendum count centre at Dublin Castle. Saturday May 23, 2015. Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Drag queen and gay rights activist Rory O'Neill, known by his stage name as Panti Bliss arrives at the Central Count Centre in Dublin Castle, Dublin, as votes continue to be counted in the referendum on same-sex marriage.
Drag queen and gay rights activist Rory O'Neill, known by his stage name as Panti Bliss arrives at the Central Count Centre in Dublin Castle, Dublin, as votes continue to be counted in the referendum on same-sex marriage.
Drag queen and gay rights activist Rory O'Neill, known by his stage name as Panti Bliss kisses Senator David Norris (left) as Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams looks on at the Central Count Centre in Dublin Castle, Dublin, as votes are continued to be counted in the referendum on same-sex marriage. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday May 23, 2015. Ireland is set to enshrine the right to gay marriage in a historic world first. Key campaign groups fighting the rights reform conceded defeat, with results from around the country indicating a two to one majority of voters backing the constitutional change Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Drag queen and gay rights activist Rory O'Neill (centre), known by his stage name as Panti Bliss with with Senator David Norris (left) and Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams at the Central Count Centre in Dublin Castle, Dublin, as votes continue to be counted in the referendum on same-sex marriage. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday May 23, 2015. Ireland is set to enshrine the right to gay marriage in a historic world first. Key campaign groups fighting the rights reform conceded defeat, with results from around the country indicating a two to one majority of voters backing the constitutional change. Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Drag queen and gay rights activist Rory O'Neill, known by his stage name as Panti Bliss arrives at the Central Count Centre in Dublin Castle, Dublin, as votes continue to be counted in the referendum on same-sex marriage. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday May 23, 2015. Ireland is set to enshrine the right to gay marriage in a historic world first. Key campaign groups fighting the rights reform conceded defeat, with results from around the country indicating a two to one majority of voters backing the constitutional change. Brian Lawless/PA Wire
People gather at the Central Count Centre in Dublin Castle, Dublin as votes are continued to be counted in the referendum on same-sex marriage.
Seven month old Belle Duffy, held by her mother Deirdre Duffy as counting of votes continues in the referendums on same-sex marriage and presidential-age at the RDS in Dublin. Picture date: Saturday May 23, 2015. Brian Lawless/PA Wire
YES voter Deirdre Duffy and her seventh month old daughter Belle, with YES campaigners (from left) Kristina Vaughan, Mark Dempsey, and Ger O'Keeffe as counting of votes continues in the referendums on same-sex marriage and presidential-age at the RDS in Dublin. Saturday May 23, 2015. Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Senator David Norris is welcomed by Andrew Hyland of YES Equality (left) as he arrives at the RDS as counting of votes in the referendums on same-sex marriage and presidential-age gets under way at the RDS in Dublin this morning. Saturday May 23, 2015. Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Ballot boxes are emptied as counting of votes in the referendums on same-sex marriage and presidential-age is under way at the RDS in Dublin this morning. Saturday May 23, 2015. Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Official tally Rhonda Donaghy and James McGrath wait for counting of votes in the referendums on same-sex marriage and presidential-age to get under way at the RDS in Dublin this morning. Saturday May 23, 2015. Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Sorcha Nic Mhathuna waits for counting of votes in the referendums on same-sex marriage and presidential-age to get under way at the RDS in Dublin this morning. Picture date: Saturday May 23, 2015. Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Official tally Rhonda Donaghy waits for counting of votes in the referendums on same-sex marriage and presidential-age to get under way at the RDS in Dublin this morning. Saturday May 23, 2015. Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Ballot boxes are unlocked as counting of votes in the referendums on same-sex marriage and presidential-age to get under way at the RDS in Dublin this morning Saturday May 23, 2015Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Counting of votes in the referendums on same-sex marriage and presidential-age gets under way at the RDS in Dublin this morning. Saturday May 23, 2015. Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Official tally Rhonda Donaghy and James McGrath wait for counting of votes in the referendums on same-sex marriage and presidential-age to get under way at the RDS in Dublin this morning. Picture date: Saturday May 23, 2015. Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Senator David Norris arrives at the RDS as counting of votes in the referendums on same-sex marriage and presidential-age get under way at the RDS in Dublin this morning. Picture date: Saturday May 23, 2015 Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Newly married couple Anne Fox (nee Cole) and Vincent Fox kiss to celebrate their wedding and also show their support for the Yes campaign in favour of same-sex marriage before casting their votes at a polling station on May 22, 2015 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
Newly married couple Anne Fox (nee Cole) and Vincent Fox celebrate their wedding day by showing their support for the Yes campaign in favour of same-sex marriage as they cast their votes at a polling station on May 22, 2015 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
Carmelite sisters leave a polling station in Malahide, County Dublin, Ireland, Friday, May 22, 2015.
A gay couple pose holding hands as they walk out of a polling station after voting in Drogheda, north Dublin on May 22, 2015. Ireland took to the polls today to vote on whether same-sex marriage should be legal, in a referendum that has exposed sharp divisions between communities in this traditionally Catholic nation. AFP PHOTO / Paul FaithPAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images
Civil partners of four years Paul Higgins (left) and Richard Lucey, who have been in a relationship together for 19 years, prepare to cast their votes at their polling station in Cabra, Dublin for the referendum on gay marriage.
A homeless person lays beneath a billboard poster promoting the Yes campaign in favour of same-sex marriage on May 22, 2015 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
A man walks past billboard posters promoting the Yes campaign in favour of same-sex marriage on May 22, 2015 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
A man walks past a mural promoting the Yes campaign in favour of same-sex marriage on May 22, 2015 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
Pedestrians walk past a mural in favour of same-sex marriages in Dublin.
Members of the Yes Equality campaign gather in the center of Dublin, Ireland. People from across the Republic of Ireland will vote in a referendum on the legalization of gay marriage, a vote that pits the power of the Catholic Church against the secular-minded Irish government of Enda Kenny.
16/5/2015.Marriage Equality Referendum. With just six days to go for the voting on the Marriage Equality Referendum on Friday 22 of May, the debate about margins continues with the Yes Vote appearing to be way out in front, particularly in the large cities, but with a fear that in the countryside there may be a large silent No Vote lingering in the long grass. Photo shows people passing a large Yes poster in Dublin City Centre.Photo Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland
USI (Union of Students in Ireland) launches 'VoterMotor' a campaign to get the student vote out for the Marriage Equality Referendum.
Sister Loreto Ryan of the Sisters of Charity casts her vote at a polling station in Drumcondra, north Dublin on May 22, 2015. Ireland took to the polls today to vote on whether same-sex marriage should be legal, in a referendum that has exposed sharp divisions between communities in this traditionally Catholic nation.
Sister Loreto Ryan of the Sisters of Charity leaves after voting at a polling station in Drumcondra, north Dublin on May 22, 2015. Ireland took to the polls today to vote on whether same-sex marriage should be legal, in a referendum that has exposed sharp divisions between communities in this traditionally Catholic nation.
Tanaiste Joan Burton arrives to cast her vote at St Joseph's National School in Cabra, Dublin for the referendum on gay marriage.
Tanaiste Joan Burton arrives to cast her vote at St Joseph's National School in Cabra, Dublin for the referendum on gay marriage.
Sinn Fein's Mary Lou McDonald casts her vote at St Joseph's National School in Cabra, Dublin for the referendum on gay marriage.
Posters in favour of same-sex marriage sit in the window of a clothing shop in Dublin on May 21, 2015.
A mural in favour of same-sex marriage is pictured on a wall in Dublin on May 21, 2015.
Pedestrians walk past anti same-sex marriage posters in Dublin on May 21, 2015. Ireland goes to the polls tomorrow to vote on whether same-sex marriage should be legal, in a referendum that has exposed sharp divisions between communities in this traditionally Catholic nation. AFP PHOTO / PAUL FAITHPAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images
Pedestrians walk past a mural in favour of same-sex marriages in Dublin.
A Mural in favour of same-sex marriages in Dublin on May 21, 2015. Ireland goes to the polls tomorrow to vote on whether same-sex marriage should be legal, in a referendum that has exposed sharp divisions between communities in this traditionally Catholic nation.
Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny arrives to meet with members of the Yes Equality campaign during a photo call in Dublin, Ireland. The Irish Prime Minister is appealing to Ireland's voters to support the legalization of gay marriage in a referendum that pits the power of the Catholic Church against his government.
Declan Waters, owner of the Holy Love Information Centre, adjust his Irish flag as it flys above anti same-sex "Vote No" posters in Knock, west Ireland. In the village of Knock in the west of Ireland, support for a "No" vote in the May 22 same-sex marriage referendum is strong, as it is in many rural areas where the Catholic Church still holds sway.
A woman walks past anti same-sex "Vote No" posters in Knock, west Ireland. In the village of Knock in the west of Ireland, support for a "No" vote in the May 22 same-sex marriage referendum is strong, as it is in many rural areas where the Catholic Church still holds sway.
Comedian Oliver Callan takes part in A Noble Call for Marriage Equality, an arts event in support of a Yes vote in Ireland's Gay marriage referendum, at the Abbey Theater in Dublin.

Belfast City Council has backed same-sex marriage. Councillors voted in favour of legalising gay marriage in Northern Ireland by 38 to 13.

The motion was proposed by Alliance's Emmet McDonough-Brown after the Republic voted to adapt its constitution to allow same-sex marriage.

"The sky has not fallen in. All that happens is that people who want to commit to each other are able to," he said.

Openly gay UUP councillor Jeff Dudgeon fought a long legal battle to decriminalise homosexuality here in the 1980s.

But he warned that some politicians would vote to have decriminalisation reversed if a bill allowing same-sex marriage is introduced at Stormont.

More than 60% of those who cast their votes ticked the ‘yes’ box, and the cross-party support in the south turned attention to Northern Ireland, the only part of the UK and Ireland where same sex couples cannot be legally married.

Cllr McDonough-Brown said the “sun shone” on the Republic of Ireland on 23 May, the day the referendum results were revealed.

Supporting members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender societies, he said: “Their contribution makes our society a more vibrant one.

“I look forward to Northern Ireland joining the list of countries that allows couples to say I do.

“The sky has not fallen in.  All that happens is that people who want to commit to each other are able to.”

Cllr McDonough-Brown described NI as a “backwater, an embarrassment” in its stance on gay marriage, but added that ministers should not be forced into enacting it.

“Alliance believe religious insitutions must be free to practice marriage as they see fit,” he explained.

The token motion, which would likely be defeated at the Assembly if proposed at Stormont, was seconded by Sinn Féin councillor Jim McVeigh.

Still wearing the ‘yes badge’ from the southern campaign, he said a mood of tolerance and mutual respect is infectious.

“This is the type of politics we should be talking about.  There’s a groundswell of goodwill sweeping across these islands,” he said.

“I remember when fire and brimstone dominated politics here.  This place is changing.”

The Lower Falls representative recalled the Save Ulster from Sodomy movement - started by Rev Ian Paisley - which Cllr McVeigh claimed was once the biggest campaign in Belfast.

“Now the second biggest rally in the city is Pride,” he added.

“Whether or not we manage to change the minds of the DUP, their position is only a matter of time.

“What an act of forward leadership to say this country belongs to everyone.”

“One of the ironies about this debate is that some of the people who opppose it say it undermines the insitution of marriage.  How does love undermine marriage?  I don’t understand how they feel it undermines it.  In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

“It’s time for this part of this island, of these islands, to support marriage equality,” added Cllr McVeigh.

Openly gay councillor Jeff Dudgeon also spoke up during the debate.  The UUP politician remembered back to 1982, when homosexuality was made legal in Northern Ireland, just over a decade before politicians in the Republic made the same change.

“There was a small party in Belfast of a dozen people, and then a disco.  Not a street party with global support,” he explained.

“Most countries in Europe still don’t have equal marriage.”

He also referred to how politicians voted at Stormont during a Sinn Fein proposal in April to allow same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland.

It led to questions over divisions among the SDLP and Alliance parties on their members’ stance on the issue.  Five SDLP MLAs did not turn up for the vote, while three Alliance party representatives abstained, despite official party line being to support gay marriage.

Cllr Dudgeon said: “Decriminalisaton in the 1980s was achieved without support from any political party.  The Alliance party doesn’t discipline its members that don’t abide the party whip.

“This bill would still hve to go through Stormont where it’ll be defeated, and I’m nervous of those being demonised for their stance.

“In my own party there are differing views, we hold the status quo, though some have already voted for change.”

Cllr Dudgeon was a trailblazer in making homosexuality legal in Northern Ireland, taking his case to the European Court of Human Rights.  Less than a decade later, David Norris also arrived at Strasbourg in a case that echoed Dudgeon’s.

The Unionist politician expressed fears that some politicians would vote to have the decriminalisation of homosexuality reversed.

“My colleagues at the High Court and at Strasbourg will once again be the agents for change.”

During the vote on Monday night, the motion was carried 38-13, with two no votes.

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