Belfast Telegraph

It's Northern Ireland's turn now, says Fermanagh man who led Oz same-sex battle

By Cate McCurry

The Northern Ireland-born head of Australia's same-sex marriage campaign has said it is now time for us to change our laws.

Australians voted overwhelmingly in favour of legalising same-sex weddings.

In a non-binding survey, 61.6% of Australian voters backed the proposal, leading to celebrations across the country.

A Bill to change the law was introduced into the Senate yesterday and will be debated for amendments.

Fermanagh native Tiernan Brady is director of Australians for Equality, which runs the campaign for same-sex marriage in Australia.

He said: "Today is a joyful day. It is a day when the Australian people have said to their LGBTI family members, friends and neighbours that we are all one, and our laws must reflect that.

"But amidst the joy, I still feel a pang of sadness when I think of where I was born and raised in Fermanagh - and how LGBTI people there are still denied their equality."

He added: "Just like Australia, the people of Northern Ireland share the same commitment to fairness and equality and that is reflected in every poll taken on the issue.

"Just like Australia, it has been the world of politics that is blocking the clear will of the people to treat LGBTI people equally."

The Green Party welcomed the historic vote and also said it was time Northern Ireland caught up with the rest of the world.

Malachai O'Hara, Green Party representative for north Belfast and a campaigner for equal marriage, said: "It is fantastic to see such an overwhelming message from the Australian people, with 61.6% voting yes in the postal vote and a magnificent turnout of 79.5%.

"It's telling that there are virtually identical levels of support in Northern Ireland for same-sex marriage - 61%, according to a recent LucidTalk poll.

"A majority of MLAs in the last Assembly voted in favour of legally recognising same-sex marriage, yet the motion was blocked by a petition of concern exercised by the DUP.

"The Republic of Ireland led the way as the first country to legalise equal marriage by popular vote and the weight of popular opinion is firmly behind legalising equal marriage in Northern Ireland.

"As more and more countries around the world come out in favour of equal rights, Northern Ireland cuts an ever more isolated figure as it drags its heels on this issue.

"Our party leader Steven Agnew brought the first equal marriage motion to the Assembly.

"It is about time that we got the Assembly up and running again and tackled this issue as a matter of urgency."

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, who became the fourth openly gay head of government when he was elected in June, congratulated Australia for following the Republic in supporting same-sex marriage.

In May 2015 Ireland backed marriage equality, with 62% of voters in the traditionally Catholic and conservative country choosing yes in the landmark referendum.

Mr Varadkar wrote on Twitter: "Congrats to Australia on a resounding vote yes for marriage equality.

"As ever, Australians are willing to give everyone a fair go."

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said he wanted Parliament to pass the legislation to allow same-sex marriage before Christmas.

Speaking after the result, he said: "Australians have voted yes for fairness, they have voted yes for commitment, they have voted yes for love."

Belfast Telegraph

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