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Same-sex marriage campaigners urge law change in Northern Ireland

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

Marriage equality campaigners have predicted victory in Northern Ireland as they called for action from the country’s deadlocked politicians.

It is the only part of the UK or Ireland where same-sex marriage is banned.

Demonstrators on Saturday said any new government must be for all the country’s people as thousands thronged Belfast city centre on Saturday in a colourful and noisy parade.

Gay rights activists, trade unionists, civil servants, firemen, drag queens and same-sex couples turned out for a procession to the City Hall bedecked with rainbow flags and banners.

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.”

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Campaigners gathered outside St Anne's Cathedral in Belfast (Niall Carson/PA)

It is one sticking point delaying the formation of a new devolved powersharing government at Stormont.

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

He said: “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.”

A Unitarian minister, the Rev Chris Hudson from All Souls Church in South Belfast, clutched a banner in support of same-sex marriage on the steps of St Anne’s Church of Ireland Cathedral.

The main Christian churches in Northern Ireland believe marriage is between a man and a woman.

Rev Hudson said some ministers strongly favoured equal marriage and the status quo harshly discriminated against him because he could not marry a same sex couple. He appealed to the DUP not to block any bid to legalise it.

“I hope the next time round that the Holy Spirit will descend upon them and we will see that it is fair, that it functions well in every other part of the UK, why should Northern Ireland be any different?”

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