Thousands attend gay marriage march

Campaigners attend a rally in Belfast to show their support for marriage equality
Campaigners attend a rally in Belfast to show their support for marriage equality

Thousands of gay rights campaigners have marched in Belfast demanding a change in the law to allow gay marriage.

The crowd, organised by Amnesty International, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and the Rainbow Project, said they want parity with the rest of the UK and Ireland in permitting civil marriage for gay couples.

SDLP MLA Alex Attwood, who attended the march for marriage equality in Belfast, said: “The thousands of people on the streets of Belfast today have sent a very strong message to legislators here.

“There is now a need for a new approach by the Parties in Northern Ireland whereby the rights of the LGBT community are not only recognised but also endorsed in legislative form.”

He added that to date “Government has dragged its heels on the issue of LGBT rights - evidenced by the current Blood Ban and by the Conscience Clause Bill brought forward by the DUP”.

“The overwhelmingly positive referendum held recently has showed that the tide is changing in relation to equal marriage in Ireland - the North is now clearly off-step with the rest of the UK in that regard.”

Meanwhile at a packed meeting following the demonstration for marriage equality in Belfast, campaign group Fight4Equality has announced it intends to launch a series of actions targeting homophobic politicians.

The campaign plans to hold a series of local meetings to lay the basis for this.

“Northern Ireland is now the only place in these islands where same-sex couples continue to be denied equality but today’s march shows that people are determined not to be left behind when it comes to LGBT rights,” said spokeswoman Courtney Robinson.

“The victory in the Southern marriage equality referendum has given people confidence that change is possible.”

The Northern Ireland Assembly has rejected a proposal calling for the introduction of gay marriage after debating the issue for a fourth time.

Sinn Fein said equality rights for same-sex couples must be shared by citizens in the north and it will continue to campaign for the reform.

Other high profile supporters of the campaign include singer Brian Kennedy and Olympic boxer Paddy Barnes.