Belfast Telegraph

Thousands rally in Belfast to demand the legalisation of same-sex marriage now

By Allan Preston

Same-sex marriage campaigners gathered in their thousands in Belfast on Saturday to demand change from Stormont politicians.

Many of the demonstrators said they were energised after Germany voted last week to legalise gay weddings.

Northern Ireland remains the only part of the UK or Ireland still to make the change to marriage laws.

The colourful parade through the city centre saw gay rights activists joined by trade unions, politicians and famous faces including The Fall actress Bronagh Waugh and Lord Mayor Nuala McAllister.

John O'Doherty, director of the Rainbow Project, which helps gay, bisexual and transgender people, led the demonstrations. He urged politicians to listen to the demand for change and take action. "Action to make communities safe, action to make schools safe, an overarching 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," he said.

Among the crowds was well-known drag queen Titti von Tramp, who echoed the call for politicians to listen.

"Don't forget about me and my gay brothers and sisters, we are here and we are not going away," she said.

Also attending was SDLP Lagan Valley MLA Pat Catney. Having been married for over 30 years, Mr Catney demanded same-sex couples be given the same opportunity.

"I'm proud to join the march for marriage equality, because marriage is important. Far from diminishing the strength of my own partnership, I believe that broadening the institution strengthens it and gives it an even more solid foundation in the society we are attempting to shape," he said.

Sinn Fein MLA Megan Fearon said the huge turnout was a "clear sign" society was demanding change.

"The opposition to marriage equality in the North of Ireland is discriminatory and clearly out of step with the people of these islands and across Europe," she said.

"The DUP can no longer stick their heads in the sand and block equality and rights for citizens in the North."

In the build-up to Saturday's march, many famous voices added their support to the campaign for change including Ballymena-born actor Liam Neeson, Snow Patrol singer Gary Lightbody and BBC talk show host Graham Norton.

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