Gay rights group vows to fight on
Tuesday, 6 May 2014
NEWRY Rainbow Community (NRC) has vowed the fight for marriage equality "is not over" after a Sinn Féin motion in support of the issue was defeated at Stormont on Tuesday.
A total of 51 MLAs voted against the motion for same-sex marriage, which would bring the north into line with the rest of the UK, while 43 voted in favour. It's the third time the motion has been rejected in the last 18 months.
Rory Rafferty, chair of both Newry Pride and NRC, said: "We are very disappointed the motion has failed for the third time and once again Northern Ireland is being left behind and our rights are being denied.
“The DUP say marriage is 'a godly institution' but the fact is marriage was created by man to protect land, money and property and has nothing to do with God. These laws were created to protect citizens and if the Assembly isn't creating laws to protect all of its citizens then it isn't doing its job.
“There's a lot of talk from the churches about this but some such as the Quakers support same-sex marriage yet it's legally blocked. It's complete discrimination - if I lived in London I could get married."
Mr Rafferty said being denied the right to marry infringes on his human rights: "I can't marry the person I love and every single day my rights are being denied, but we're on the right side of history. It's only a matter of time before the law changes but sadly it might be too late for some people.
“Sinn Féin have really nailed their colours to the mast - they are actually the only party in the world which totally supports same-sex marriage and has a whipping system to ensure every party member votes in favour of it - which is incredible.
“But there are MLAs in other parties who have not turned up to vote because they don't have the backbone to do it. They are elected by us and are very well paid to their jobs and it is incredulous and abhorrent that they just wouldn't turn up.
“The fight is not over and we will take it to the European Court of Human Rights if we have to - like we did with the blood ban and adoption.
“Edwin Poots [Health Minister] has wasted over £100,000 fighting legal cases on the blood ban and adoption rights. He no doubt has very well paid legal advisors who would have known he was fighting a losing battle yet he deliberately wasted over £100,000 of taxpayers' money to deny the rights of the LGT&B community. As long as our rights are denied, we will continue to fight," he said.
SINN Féin MLA Megan Fearon echoed Mr Rafferty's comments, saying the result of the vote was "a setback, not a defeat".
“Although the cynical use of a Petition of Concern by the DUP effectively vetoed the possibility of a positive vote in today's Assembly motion on marriage equality, it is still a necessary debate to have.
“The denial of marriage equality to the LGT&B communities is the civil rights issue of our time and, although it will require patience, I am confident that eventually other political parties in the Assembly will catch up with public opinion and vote for equality in all statutory matters.
“Let the churches keep their rules, our democracy should uphold both freedom of religion and freedom from religion," Ms Fearon said.
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