Northern Ireland is now the odd one out on same-sex marriage
Following the victory of same-sex marriage in the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland has grown increasingly isolated on the issue.
The Republic of Ireland yesterday held a referendum on a proposal to introduce civil same-sex marriage.
Despite fears that a strong turnout among older, religious voters could sway the referendum against equality, it was announced today that the vote passed by 62.1% to 37.9%.
However, in Northern Ireland the Democratic Unionist Party government continues to block all LGBT rights legislation including same-sex marriage – with the measure rejected by Stormont for a fourth time last month despite popular support.
The DUP has dismissed calls to follow the Republic of Ireland in holding a referendum – but Northern Ireland is now very much isolated in Northern Europe on the issue.
In Europe, same-sex marriage is now legal in Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain and Sweden – as well as Scotland, England and Wales inside the United Kingdom.
The Crown Dependencies of Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man are also still to introduce equality – but have a much smaller population than Northern Ireland’s 1.8 million.
Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness has previously called for a referendum in Northern Ireland following roadblocks in Stormont, saying: “What would be very interesting for me, would be to gauge whether or not on the issue of equality, in regard to the rights of people in LGBT community, the assembly actually is representative of people here in the north and I think it would be very interesting if we had a referendum.
“In fact I would advocate that we should have a referendum.
“This is a matter of whether or not we want to live in a modern progressive society that respects minorities, and as far as I’m concerned the LGBT community for far too long have been discriminated against and I believe that they are entitled to be treated as equals and treated with respect.”
Section 75 of the Good Friday Agreement directs that public authorities should carry out their functions without discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.
This has been at the crux of a number of court challenges on the issue for some time, with campaigners arguing it obliges Northern Ireland to treat all couples equally on marriage.