Belfast Telegraph

Equality chief marks Pride by saying Northern Ireland still lagging on rights

By Michael McHugh

The Equality Commission has said a lot more work is needed on LGBT rights in Northern Ireland.

It said today's Pride parade was a reminder of the difficulties created by prejudice.

The colourful march through Belfast city centre marks the culmination of a high-profile week of talks and events.

Michael Wardlow, the Equality Commission's chief commissioner, said: "Progress on LGB and T rights has been hard to achieve and long in coming.

"We can't take the gains we've made for granted and we still have a lot of work to do.

"For example, Northern Ireland is now unique in the British Isles as a place where LGB people do not have the right to marry."

Mr Wardlow said the parade was a reminder of how important it was to continue to promote and protect what have been very hard-won rights for LGBT people.

"Of course the Pride parade is always full of exuberance and 'over the top' costumes but, underneath the bling and colour, many people at the event will have their own stories of prejudice or denial of rights."

The DUP has come under fire at various Pride events in Belfast this week over the use of a petition of concern to block legalisation of same-sex marriage when the Assembly was sitting.

Separately yesterday, campaigners criticised British Airways for sponsoring the UK's biggest Pride celebration in Brighton while co-operating with deportations, claiming the removals include people facing persecution for their sexuality.

Activist group Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants called on the airline to "stop being complicit" in working with the Government to deport people, as the festivities at Brighton Pride began yesterday.

The open letter, published in The Guardian and signed by scores of MPs and public figures, claims the presence of companies at the event which "profit off deportations is an affront to the vision of freedom Pride represents".

A BA spokeswoman said: "It is a legal requirement (under the Immigration Act 1971) for all airlines to deport people when asked to do so by the Home Office.

"Not fulfilling this obligation amounts to breaking the law. Airlines only have the right to refuse deportees on the basis that they feel there is a threat to the safety or security of the aircraft/its passengers or the individual."

She said the company was proud to support this weekend's Brighton Pride event.

Belfast Telegraph

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