Criticism of Northern Ireland’s Assembly for failing to make progress on equal marriage has been welcomed by Sinn Féin.

Yesterday, the NI Equality Commission criticised repeated attempts to block votes on equal marriage in the NI Assembly.

A joint same-sex marriage proposal by Sinn Fein and the Green Party was defeated in October 2012, along nationalist and unionist lines.

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) again blocked progress on equal marriage through another petition of concern in April this year.

Under Stormont rules, any party can trigger a petition of concern on a motion that then can only pass if the majority of nationalists and unionists back it together.

“Leadership needs to be shown – people from the gay and lesbian community are feeling let down by this,” the head of the NI Equality Commission said on Wednesday.

Dr Michael Wardlow stated that the commission strongly supported equal marriage for Northern Ireland.

Sinn Féin Chief Whip Caitriona Ruane welcomed the remarks. “Sinn Féin has twice brought motions calling for marriage equality in the Assembly only to be blocked by motions of concern from the DUP.”

She added: “The commission has recognised that many parties need to show leadership in bringing about the changes needed for real equality for the GLBT community.  I also believe that this extends to individual members who while purporting to support equality disappear at the first sign of a debate on marriage equality.

“Marriage equality threatens no one or any religious doctrine and Sinn Fein has promised to continue to raise the issue in the Assembly until is implemented into legislation that gives all couple equal legal rights in marriage.”