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Same-sex marriage campaigners plan protest march through city

By Christine Carrigan

Campaigners for same-sex marriage are to take to the streets of Belfast to demand changes to the law in Northern Ireland - the only part of the UK and Ireland where gay people cannot wed.

John O'Doherty, director of the Rainbow Project, said: "The march will send the clearest possible message that members of the LGBT community will remain second class citizens no more."

The announcement comes against a backdrop of negotiations between the DUP and Conservatives to form a new UK government, placing the unionist party's position on social issues, such as same-sex marriage, under scrutiny.

Clare Moore, from the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, said: "The Trade Union movement calls on all trade union members to join this march. The public supports equal marriage and their voices must be heard by those who would seek to govern.

"Any new government at Westminster or at Stormont must be a government for all the people of Northern Ireland."

Conor Loughran, LGBT officer for the National Union of Students, said: "It really frustrates me that we are so far behind the rest of the United Kingdom and in fact the rest of Western Europe."

Same-sex marriage has been debated five times in Stormont. On the last occasion, a majority of MLAs voted in favour of it, but the DUP used a petition of concern to veto any changes to the law.

Sally Bridge (49) and Catherine Couvert (54), who have been together since 2001, obtained a civil partnership in 2006 and have two children together.

Catherine said: "We have had our ceremony, we don't need another one, but we want equality for young people who are growing up gay or LGBT in general, who are living in a society where they don't feel equal. Marriage equality for us is an important part of the process of acceptance and equality."

LGBT activists gathered yesterday at Belfast City Hall to announce plans for the mass demonstration on July 1.

Among them was Northern Irish drag queen Lady Portia Di'Monte (aka Marcus Hunter-Neill), who said: "I am here today to help bring Northern Ireland into the 21st century."

The march will be held in Belfast on Saturday, July 1, starting at Writers' Square at 2:30pm, finishing at City Hall.

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