LGBT teenagers in Northern Ireland have launched a petition calling for equal marriage legislation as part of any Stormont Talks deal.
The teenage campaigners want marriage equality to be guaranteed as part of any deal for a new government at the Stormont talks. Failing that, they say, they want the UK government to deliver marriage equality legislation at Westminster.
The Northern Ireland parties are currently engaged in a round of meetings about the possible restoration of devolved government, which has been suspended for more than a year. Continued opposition to marriage equality by the DUP is reportedly one of the sticking points in the Talks.
The group of teenage friends, members of the CaraFriend youth group in Belfast, have created the online petition with the help of Amnesty International, part of the Love Equality campaign for civil marriage equality in Northern Ireland. The petition is available on the human rights organisation’s website at: www.amnesty.org.uk/marriageequality.
The teenagers plan to deliver the petition to Northern Ireland party leaders at Stormont next Wednesday – Valentine’s Day.
One of the group, Cameron Brown, aged 18, from Belfast, said:
“When I’m a bit older, I want to be able to marry the love of my life. Why would the government want to stop me doing that? Marriage equality isn’t simply an aspiration. It is a right and it’s our demand of our politicians.”
Amelia Clarke, 18, from Belfast, said:
“One day, I want to be able to get married, with my family and friends around me. Is that too much to ask? We are asking people to sign our petition for equality. It’s time that Northern Ireland respected all its citizens.”
Shay Love, 18, from Belfast, said:
“I refuse to be a second-class citizen in my own country. We don’t want much – we just want to be treated equally. We hope people will get behind our campaign as young people trying to make this a better place for everybody to grow up, to live and to love.”
The Love Equality campaign is urging politicians to ensure that civil marriage equality is part of any settlement to restore devolution to Stormont, and wants to see a reform of the petition of concern, an Assembly mechanism the DUP has previously used to block progress on marriage equality. Last week, the DUP refused to give the campaigners any commitment that they would not continue to use the veto to block a marriage equality law if devolution is restored.
The Love Equality campaign for equal civil marriage in Northern Ireland is led by the Rainbow Project, Amnesty International, Irish Congress of Trade Unions, Cara-Friend, NUS-USI and HereNI.
Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK or Ireland which still bans marriage for same-sex couples, despite majority support among the public and in the Northern Ireland Assembly. In November 2015, a majority of MLAs in the Assembly voted to support equal marriage, but the measure was blocked by the DUP using a Petition of Concern, a voting mechanism designed to protect the rights of minorities in Northern Ireland. An Ipsos MORI poll in 2016 showed 70% support for marriage equality amongst the Northern Ireland public. It is thought that at least 55 out of 90 MLAs in the Assembly support marriage equality legislation.
The petition is available at: www.amnesty.org.uk/marriageequality.