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Support for equal marriage in Northern Ireland ‘dwarfs’ that in Republic of Ireland

Joseph McCormick May 22, 2016

The number of people supporting same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland “dwarfs” the support given in the Republic of Ireland’s referendum, campaigners have said.

On 22 May 2015, the Irish public overwhelmingly voted to bring in equal marriage – with 62% of voters backing equality, and just 38% against despite strong lobbying from the Catholic Church in the country.

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Weddings began in Ireland in November – and six months on, the country’s Department of Social Protection released figures for the first weddings, which showed that 412 couples had tied the knot so far. 

But now the Northern Ireland director at Amnesty International Patrick Corrigan has said even more people support equality in Northern Ireland than supported it in the referendum in the Republic last year.

He said: “The 68% of people in Northern Ireland who have told opinion polls that they back marriage equality here dwarfs even the 62% of people who voted Yes in last year’s referendum in the Republic.

“People are impatient for change. They have just returned a majority of pro-equal marriage politicians to the Assembly and now expect them to deliver without further delay or the misuse of petitions of concern to veto the will of the people.”

Despite efforts to legalise same-sex marriage, and support from the public, it remains not enshrined in law.

Five attempts to put forward bills to legalise it have failed in the Northern Irish Stormont Assembly.

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), has continually argued that it does not support equal marriage, and that gay couples are equal in their ability to enter civil partnerships.

The Northern Irish Assembly backed equal marriage by a vote of 53 to 51 last year – but the DUP used peace process powers to override the democratic process and block equality for a fifth time.

The party has been accused of “abusing” petitions of concern, which were introduced to encourage power-sharing and cross-community support, to ‘veto’ marriage legislation despite clear majority support.

The party released its first manifesto last month under new leader Arlene Foster, ahead of next month’s Assembly elections, and reiterated its intention to continue to block efforts for equality.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, co-founder of Yes Equality and Chair of Marriage Equality in the south Grainne Healy said: “It is a great joy to see the marriages that have taken place all around Ireland, with couples supported by their families, friends and communities in celebrating their love.

“412 couples have already married since November last year. Hundreds more couples had their foreign marriages automatically recognised.

“We are delighted to share this day with those that helped and supported Yes Equality and look forward to many more happy days out for couples who can share in our joy.”

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