Let Valentine’s Day be a joyous celebration for all lovers
Andrew Muir, Northern Ireland's first openly gay mayor, hopes those who block progress on same-sex marriage soon realise love is love
Valentine’s Day is approaching and no doubt many will be preparing to pop the big question and enter into a life-long commitment with the person they love.
There is nothing more uplifting and life affirming as seeing two people in love and ready to take marriage vows to remain as a couple in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, until death do they part.
Couples across these islands can take this step regardless of sexual orientation with the exception of one place – Northern Ireland, where lesbian and gay couples are told they’re not worthy enough to marry.
Despite the majority of Assembly members having voted in favour of such legislation and opinion polls demonstrating support for equal marriage, Northern Ireland is stuck with outdated laws.
Rather than respecting the democratic will of the Assembly by embracing diversity and striving with others to build an open, welcoming and inclusive society, the DUP once again abused the Petition of Concern mechanism to stop LGBT people expressing their love and commitment to each other by getting married.
Many young LGBT people feel lesser due to this, with the accompanying intolerant attitudes and views adding insult to injury, often leading to many leaving Northern Ireland and never returning.
The recent Irish referendum on the issue was a moment to rejoice but the sense of hurt and continuing injustice was perhaps more acutely by the family and friends of LGBT people, who must continue to see their sons, daughters, colleagues and friends left behind as second-class citizens.
In my own particular case, the sadness in my grandmother’s face when I told her the historic step forward only applied across the border was something I will never forget.
It is my strong desire Northern Ireland moves away from this cold and unsympathetic outlook which leaves people like my grandmother upset. I am passionately committed to building a society where everyone is valued, regardless of their background.
I hope and pray others join me in this, and those who use the Petition of Concern system to block progress on what has been described as ‘the civil rights issue of this generation’ realise love is love.
Allow Valentine’s Day be a joyous celebration for all lovers, regardless of sexuality.
Councillor Andrew Muir, Alliance candidate for North Down