Northern Ireland ‘last bastion of discrimination’, says Amnesty International

By agency reporter
May 25, 2015

Amnesty International has welcomed the Yes vote in the referendum in the Republic of Ireland to allow civil marriage equality for same-sex couples.

The organisation said the Irish vote for equal treatment for gay people would echo around the world, particularly in Northern Ireland, which will now become the only part of the United Kingdom or Ireland where same-sex couples are denied the right to marry.

England, Scotland and Wales had their first same-sex weddings in 2014 after changes in the law there, but the Northern Ireland government has refused to introduce similar legislation in the region.

Amnesty International’s Northern Ireland Programme Director Patrick Corrigan said: “This historic result will echo around the world - it shows how a once socially-conservative country can transform itself into a beacon of equality.

“Northern Ireland is now the last bastion of discrimination against gay people in these islands.

“Northern Ireland’s discriminatory laws are a badge of shame – not to be worn by the people of Northern Ireland, a majority of whom support same-sex marriage, but by those politicians who oppose equal treatment for the LGBTI community.

“The Northern Ireland Executive should waste no more time in fulfilling its first duty to its people – to ensure that none are treated as second-class citizens.”

Amnesty has announced a march and rally in Belfast next month to call for legislation for same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland. The March for Civil Marriage Equality, through central Belfast on Saturday 13 June, will culminate in a rally in front of Belfast City Hall. The demonstration is being organised jointly by Amnesty International, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and the Rainbow Project, Northern Ireland’s main LGBTI group.

Patrick Corrigan said: “People in Northern Ireland are sick of living in a discriminatory backwater for gay people.

“Most people here want to live in a country where such discrimination is consigned to the dustbin of history. They want to live in a place where all citizens are guaranteed equal rights and equal opportunities - that’s the message of the march for equality.”

Amnesty International played a leading role in the Irish Constitutional Convention which led to the referendum, and through its Let’s Make History campaign, encouraged Irish people to vote for the change.

The 2013 Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey (of over 1,200 people) showed 59 per cent in favour and 29 per cent against legislating for equal same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland.

* Amnesty International http://www.amnesty.org.uk/

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