THERE IS A PERCEPTION among the people of Northern Ireland, or ‘the north’ as it’s known to those of us who support Irish unity, that the people of Great Britain and particularly the people of England, perhaps, sometimes forget that we exist.
A perfect example of this was when two years ago representatives of Love Equality, the campaign for marriage equality in Northern Ireland, attended the Pink News Awards in London, the campaign having been nominated for an award. The representatives were quite surprised when the great and good of the organised British LGBT community started asking them, “You don’t have same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland? Are you sure?”. We’re sure… we’ve checked.
Did you know that a UK citizen still may not obtain a same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland, only a civil partnership? Civil partnership ceremonies are not permitted to have any religious aspect to the service. That means no minister or priest, secular music only, no prayer. For a godless communist such as myself that has zero personal impact, but to someone of faith it must be very alienating that the state forbids you from including your faith in any way in your ceremony.
And this denial of same-sex marriage in Northern Irish law doesn’t only apply to citizens born in the UK, or to ceremonies which take place here. If you have married someone of the same sex elsewhere in the UK or further afield and you come to Northern Ireland something magical happens – you simply cease to be married and instead find yourself ‘civilly partnered’.
With our devolved Stormont government currently out of action it is the duty of the British government to legislate for Northern Ireland and introduce marriage equality to end the civil rights disparity between citizens here and citizens in Britain. However due to her reliance on the Democratic Unionist Party to keep her government just about afloat, Theresa May has refused to take action.
We need our comrades and friends in Britain to put pressure on the British government which has allowed inequality to become calcified in Northern Ireland. I would ask you all to contact your local LGBT groups and political leaders and ask what they are doing to extend marriage equality to LGBT citizens in Northern Ireland. Our voice would be so much louder if you all shouted with us.
is the Community Development Officer for Cara-Friend, an LGBT charity based in Northern Ireland.