Belfast Telegraph

Poll: Should same sex marriage be allowed in Northern Ireland? Pressure grows for referendum

By Victoria O'Hara

Pressure on Northern Ireland's politicians to support holding a referendum over gay marriage is set to intensify after the landmark outcome in the Republic.

The historic vote found 62% were in favour of changing the constitution to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry.

Out of an electorate of more than three million, 1,201,607 backed gay marriage, while 734,300 voters said No.

Ireland's Health Minister Leo Varadkar, the country's first openly gay Cabinet minister, called the referendum a "social revolution".

Northern Ireland is now the only region in the UK and Ireland not to extend civil marriage rights to same-sex couples.

It has led to Amnesty International describing Northern Ireland as the "last bastion of discrimination". It, along with The Irish Congress of Trade Unions and gay rights group the Rainbow Project, will hold a mass rally in support of equal marriage rights on June 13.

Opinion remains split between the political parties over whether a referendum should be held. The DUP last night said there is no need for a referendum, as it is a devolved issue. In a statement, it said the matter is for the Northern Ireland Assembly to decide.

"The DUP is opposed to the redefinition of marriage and a majority of MLAs have agreed with that position each time the issue has been debated in the Assembly," the spokesman said.

"We note the result of the Republic's referendum, which was required because of the need to amend their constitution. There is no need for this in Northern Ireland. It is a devolved matter for the Northern Ireland Assembly to decide."

Previous attempts to legislate to allow gay marriage have been vetoed by the DUP and a majority of Ulster Unionists in the devolved Northern Ireland Assembly at Stormont.

A Sinn Fein motion on marriage equality last month fell after 47 Stormont Assembly Members voted in support, while 49 unionists voted against.

But Sinn Fein and the Green Party have said they will continue to campaign for marriage equality.

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said it showed the Republic increasingly embracing equality, human rights and respect. "Politicians, particularly in the North, need to reflect on this progress," he said.

Sinn Fein's Caitriona Ruane said the party would continue its campaign for marriage equality.

Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt MLA said the party's position remains that attitudes to redefining marriage are a "matter of individual conscience".

"This is a seismic shift in attitude within Irish society," he said.

"No longer can we consider the Republic to be governed by the Catholic Church. More generally, I see the potential for the hugely ironical outcome that it is Northern Ireland rather than the Republic that is in danger of allowing our public policy to be dictated by fundamentalist religious beliefs."

Alliance councillor Andrew Muir, Northern Ireland's first openly gay mayor, said a change must take place. "There must now be great pressure brought to ensure that we follow suit."

Gavin Boyd, from the Rainbow Project in Belfast, said: "Northern Ireland is now the only region in western Europe where marriage equality is not a reality."

Amnesty International's Northern Ireland programme director Patrick Corrigan said people in the province are "sick of living in a discriminatory backwater for gay people".

Further Reading

Why I'm proud to reveal my true self after the historic Yes vote over the border

Public vote will not change our stance, say the Churches

Yes vote shows Churches have lost hold of nation's conscience

Pressure growing for a referendum to take place in Northern Ireland 

Irish gay marriage referendum: Pressure to build on Northern Ireland's politicians to allow vote on gay marriage



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