Love Equality is a campaign led by a consortium of organisations within Northern Ireland who are campaigning to for the introduction of legislation in Northern Ireland for equal civil marriage for same sex couples. Love Equality is a consortium of Amnesty International Northern Ireland, The Rainbow Project, Irish Congress of Trade Unions Northern Ireland, Here NI, Cara-Friend and NUS-USI.
The organisations involved in the Love Equality campaign have each been involved in the campaign for equal civil marriage for years. From 2012 – 2015 these organisations were involved in a range of campaigns including supporting four equal marriage motions which were brought before the Northern Ireland Assembly, and actively lobbying our local politicians.
Following the success of the Irish Marriage Equality Referendum in May 2015 The Rainbow Project, Amnesty International and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions came together to organise a rally to support the introduction of full marriage equality. On 13 June 2015 the rally for Equal Civil Marriage was held in Belfast City Centre with over 20,000 people taking part in the rally making one of the biggest political rallies in Northern Ireland in recent history.
From the success of the rally the coalition for Marriage Equality in Northern Ireland was formed and Cara-Friend, HERe NI and NUS-USI were invited to join the coalition. The coalition continued to organise campaign events including the BIG Fat Gay Wedding as part of Culture Night Belfast and further lobbying of elected representatives to legislate for change. In April 2016, ahead of the Northern Ireland Assembly election, the campaign was rebranded as Love Equality- Campaign for Civil Marriage Equality in Northern Ireland.
Unfortunately not. Although legislation was passed in England, Scotland and Wales and there was the successful marriage equality referendum in the Republic of Ireland, same sex couples are still denied the right to marry in Northern Ireland. Also, couples who have been legally married in other parts of the UK or Ireland are not recognised as married under Northern Ireland law – they are only recognised as being in a civil partnership.
There have been five votes in the Northern Ireland Assembly calling for the introduction of marriage equality in Northern Ireland. On the most recent vote, the marriage equality side won a majority for the first time, however, the DUP lodged a petition of concern to veto the majority vote of the Assembly and block the introduction of marriage equality.
Civil partnerships are great for those people who want to enter them but many people want to get married and see civil partnerships as something given less societal respect and understanding than marriage. Marriage is a fundamental human right which must be secured without discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender.
Although numerous polls show that the vast majority of people in Northern Ireland support marriage equality, we do not believe that the fundamental rights of minority groups should be put up to a popular vote. In the Republic of Ireland, marriage equality could only become legal by amending the Republic’s constitution, which requires a referendum. No such requirement exists in Northern Ireland or the rest of the UK. Additionally, referenda in the UK are not automatically binding and would still require the Northern Ireland Assembly to vote on legislation giving effect to the referendum result. We believe it is likely that this vote would be blocked just as previous votes on marriage equality have been blocked by the use of the petition of concern.
Absolutely not. We believe that the freedom to practice religion is a fundamental human right and it would be wrong and completely unlawful to force a religious celebrant to conduct a ceremony against the tenets of their faith. However, we also believe that there are many religious celebrants in Northern Ireland who would like the freedom to conduct same-sex marriages but are currently legally denied this right to religious freedom. We believe freedom of religion means that all celebrants and faiths should be free to decide for themselves, whether or not to conduct same-sex marriages.
Ultimately we believe that the best solution would be for the Northern Ireland Assembly to pass legislation allowing for marriage equality. We believe it is the duty of our legislators to vote in the interests of the people of Northern Ireland and remove marriage discrimination. If the Northern Ireland Assembly proves itself to be unable or unwilling to end this discrimination we believe that it is correct for the courts to intervene and protect the human rights of LGB&T people in Northern Ireland. There are currently two challenges to the bans on same-sex marriage. However, seeking human rights changes through the courts is a lengthy process and the Northern Ireland Assembly could instead choose to act now, pass legislation and end the on-going discrimination against LGB&T people without being compelled to do so by the courts.