UK Prime Minister Theresa May has faced protesters calling for equal marriage in Northern Ireland at an event in Belfast.
The Prime Minister visited Belfast, Northern Ireland, on Tuesday as part of a UK-wide charm offensive in order to win support for her Brexit deal.
However, her speech at Queen’s University Belfast faced protests from LGBT+ activists challenging her government’s role in preventing marriage equality in Northern Ireland.
May’s government has stood in the way of a direct settlement to bring about equal marriage in the absence of Northern Ireland’s power-sharing executive.
The PM has said the issue must wait until devolution is restored, but the region has been without a government since January 2017 due to a rift between Sinn Féin and the Democratic Unionist Party.
Protesters demand equal marriage settlement for Northern Ireland
Dozens of protesters from the Love Equality coalition and affiliated groups laid into May for her failure to act on the issue, in a protest joined by members of Irish republican party Sinn Féin.
“We want the Prime Minister to understand that she has a responsibility to ensure equality for the LGBT community.”
— Patrick Corrigan, Love Equality
The protesters braved cold and wet conditions to stand outside the event, chanting: “What do we want? Equal marriage. When do we want it? Now!”
Patrick Corrigan, Northern Ireland director of Amnesty International, said: “We want the Prime Minister to understand that she has a responsibility to ensure equality for the LGBT community in Northern Ireland, who are sick of being treated as second-class citizens in their own country.
“Flying a rainbow flag from 10 Downing Street for Pride is an empty gesture if the Prime Minister is going to fly the white flag on LGBT rights for people in Northern Ireland.
“Theresa May needs to get behind legislation to allow marriage equality in Northern Ireland, rather than allow anti-gay discrimination to continue year after year.”
— Sinn Féin (@sinnfeinireland) November 27, 2018
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Sinn Féin MP Elisha McCallion told PinkNews: “Ógra Shinn Féin [the party’s youth wing] joined rights activists outside Queen’s University Belfast today during a visit by Theresa May.
“They had a very simple message to the British Prime Minister that she must end her support for the DUP’s denial of rights to citizens in the north.
“The LGBTQ community, women, victims’ and Gaeilgeoirí [Gaelic speakers] are not second class citizens. They are entitled to the same rights as people everywhere else on these islands.”
Public support for equal marriage in Northern Ireland
A Sky Data poll earlier this year showed that 76 percent of people in Northern Ireland think same-sex marriage should be legal, with just 18 percent – less than one in five – opposed.
A clear majority of Northern Ireland Assembly members also support the change, but the body cannot sit without a power-sharing deal in place.
MPs in the House of Commons also passed a symbolic vote in favour of equalising same-sex marriage and abortion laws.
But despite the widespread support for a settlement to bring equality to the region in the absence of power-sharing, May has refused to budge.
Pressed on the issue during Prime Minister’s Questions in March, she said: “I hope that the hon. Gentleman [Labour’s Ged Killen] recognises this Government’s record in relation to LGBT rights.
“We have taken up and championed the issue. He will find that previous legislation… ensured that it would be dealt with as a devolved matter, and we hope that a Northern Ireland Executive will be in place soon and be able to address these issues.”