A reception held to honour two of Northern Ireland’s most prominent gay rights groups at Stormont last night was has been hailed as a “complete success.”
The event was co-hosted by Assembly member and Sinn Fein spokesperson on Equality and Human Rights Martina Anderson and Dawn Purvis of the Progressive Unionist Party.
More than half of the 108 MLAs attended, but none of the 36 DUP representatives showed up.
Originally scheduled to take place in September, the event was brought forward following DUP member Iris Robinson’s homophobic remarks on BBC Radio Ulster, in which she described homosexuality as an abomination that could be “cured.”
Ms Anderson, an MLA for Foyle, told PinkNews.co.uk:
“There was a huge turn out at the event with a number of speakers – including from the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister – focusing on the need for all sections of the community to be treated equally.”
She described the event as an important milestone.
“In the light of recent events, it will also send out a powerful message – that this Assembly belongs to all of the people, regardless of creed, colour, ability or sexual orientation.”
Ms Anderson said she is “determined to build a shared and better future for everyone.”
The MLA said: “We have to change the kind of mindsets which feel it is acceptable for public representatives to publicly vilify and condemn homosexuality.
“Of course, everyone is entitled to their religious beliefs and to freedom of speech.
“But with those rights come responsibilities and elected representatives in particular need to be conscious of the power of their words,” she added.
Rainbow Network was one of the organisations honoured at the reception.
Sean Morrin, a spokesman for the group, said he was pleased with the outcome as more than half of the 108 Assembly members were in attendance, with the DUP “invisible.”
The Coalition on Sexual Orientation was also honoured.