Belfast Telegraph

Campaigners to increase pressure on London over Northern Ireland equal marriage rights

By Donna Deeney

Supporters of same-sex marriage have called on the Westminster Government to make 2019 the year marriage equality is extended to Northern Ireland.

Belfast man Stephen Donnan said that while he and his partner William are excited about their civil partnership due to take place later this month, they would have preferred a marriage ceremony.

In 2018 Private Member's Bills to introduce same-sex marriage here were introduced in the House of Commons and House of Lords, but have been unable to make progress without Government support.

"Too much time has been lost for same-sex couples who wish to get married here," said Mr Donnan.

"We cannot wait any longer and I don't see why we should have to.

"We are either equal citizens in the United Kingdom or we are not, and currently we are not.

"After out civil partnership ceremony later this month, we, our families and friends will consider us married.

"But I know that when I take my vows it will sting a bit when I say 'I take you as my civil partner' rather than 'I take you as my husband'.

"I know a lot of couples who travelled to England, Wales, Scotland and the Republic so they could be married.

"But my partner and I are both from Belfast and we wanted to stay here.

"We didn't want to put any more expense onto our families and friends.

"But it is so disappointing that we can't have the marriage ceremony in the place where are both from.

"I have been part of the campaign for marriage equality since 2011 and every year we have hoped this will be the year it happens, but it never has.

"I think it is time the Westminster Government took action.

"It should have and could have been done years ago, and while it won't be done in time for my partner and I, I want it for all the other couples from Northern Ireland."

In November 2015 a majority of Stormont MLAs voted to support equal marriage.

But the measure was blocked by the DUP using a petition of concern, a voting mechanism designed to protect the rights of minorities.

Mr Donnan is supported by the wider Love Equality campaign here, which includes Amnesty International.

Patrick Corrigan from Amnesty International said we were lagging "years behind" Britain, the Republic and much of Europe on lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans rights.

He added: "Same-sex couples in Northern Ireland are tired of being treated as second-class citizens in their own country.

"In 2019 we will build on existing support across parties in both the House of Commons and House of Lords and we will be asking the Government to stop turning their backs on LGBT+ people."

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