The Democratic Unionist Party has dismissed a petition urging it to stop using peace process powers to block equal marriage in Northern Ireland.
Northern Ireland is the last remaining place in the UK where same-sex marriage continues to be blocked, as the governing Democratic Unionist Party employs Petitions of Concern – a power designed to ensure cross-community power sharing – to veto marriage bills despite a Parliamentary majority in favour.
The DUP standson a platform of ‘defending marriage’ last year, and ahead of fresh Assembly elections set for next month, leader Arlene Foster reaffirmed plans to continue blocking any future marriage legislation.
The Love Equality NI group handed over a petition to the DUP this week, urging them to listen to their voters who broadly support equal marriage.
However, the DUP insisted it would not change its tune.
A spokesperson said: “The DUP receive many petitions and correspondence from a range of different groups, charities and organisations.
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“The organisation Love Equality arranged to hand their petition to the main parties, which was received by Gavin Robinson MP on behalf of the DUP. Our position on this issue remains the same and is well known.”
The Love Equality campaign said: “We are still fighting for the rights of same-sex couples in Northern Ireland who wish to dedicate their lives to each other in the form of marriage.
“That right is currently denied to them yet their counterparts in England, Scotland, Wales, the Republic of Ireland and places as far away as New Zealand and South Africa enjoy those freedoms.
“We believe that opening up marriage to same-sex couples is a good thing, and with public support overwhelmingly in favour of changing the law to reflect that we are confident that we are on the right side of history.
“It is disappointing that same-sex couples in Northern Ireland are still being denied that fundamental freedom and many have indeed taken to crossing the border into the Republic of Ireland to marry.
“This inconsistency in law must be changed before long to ensure that the dignity and affirmation afforded to same-sex couples in the rest of the United Kingdom is extended to those living in Northern Ireland.”
Ms Foster recently reaffirmed plans to continue employing powers to block any future marriage legislation. She recently defended her actions by insisting gay people don’t really want to get married anyway.
She said: “This suggestion that every single person who’s a homosexual wants to change the definition of marriage is actually wrong.
“I know plenty of people in that community who don’t want to see marriage redefined and are quite content to live in partnership… it’s all become a bit of a storm in a teacup.”