Belfast Telegraph

Thousands march in Belfast for same sex marriage legislation

Thousands of people have joined a major parade through Belfast city centre demanding same-sex marriage rights.

The demonstration on Saturday afternoon concluded with a rally in front of City Hall.

The ban on equal marriage in Northern Ireland is one of several sticking points delaying the formation of a new powersharing government at Stormont.

It is the only part of the UK and Ireland where the practice remains outlawed.

The Lord Mayor of Belfast Nuala McAllister, Northern Ireland-born The Fall actor Bronagh Waugh and Rainbow Project director John O'Doherty led demonstrators.

Mr O'Doherty told political leaders nice words at election time were not enough, saying: "We need action.

"Action to make communities safe, action to make schools safe, an over-arching commitment from all the public institutions to addressing the historical and current inequalities which prevent Northern Ireland from being the society that we all want it to be."

Mr O'Doherty alluded to the shift in public opinion, on Friday Germany became the latest country to vote for gay marriage.

"Together we are the future of Northern Ireland.

"We are the progressive majority and those who oppose us will lose, just like they did every time before.

"When we win this battle do not think that we are done.

"This campaign is not just about changing the law, we are about changing the world."

The DUP's opposition to changing the law has attracted increased scrutiny across the UK since the party became the UK Government's kingmaker at Westminster.

On Friday, a senior member of the Democratic Unionists recognised its view may be in a minority across the UK but said the stance should be respected.

Ahead of Saturday's parade a range of celebrities including Liam Neeson, Stephen Fry and Graham Norton voiced their support for the campaign.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon also joined the leaders of all the main parties at Holyrood to call for a law change across the Irish Sea.

The DUP has used a controversial Stormont voting mechanism, the petition of concern, to prevent a law change, despite a majority of assembly members supporting the move at the last vote.

The party rejects any suggestion it is homophobic, insisting it is instead protecting the "traditional" definition of marriage.

Following March's snap Assembly election, the DUP no longer has the voting strength to prevent the measure in its own right, though it could still potentially combine with other socially conservative public representatives to do so.

That will only be tested once, and if, a devolved Assembly can be re-established out of the current political crisis in Belfast.

If politicians fail to establish a new ministerial executive, direct rule from Westminster could be re-imposed.

If that were to happen, the responsibility for legislating on the region's marriage laws would be handed to the London government.

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