In one of my first events in my year as Lord Mayor, I proudly led thousands of people through the streets of Belfast in the campaign for equal marriage.
It was fitting – and equally frustrating – the last event I participated in as Lord Mayor this past weekend was helping lead another march for marriage equality.
Throughout this year I’ve strived to represent everyone in Belfast, to showcase our city as a truly global society. But Saturday’s march was also sad because it showed the slow pace of change for people in our LGBT community, people who are still fighting for the basic rights others enjoy.
It’s about more than rights – it is literally a matter of life and death in some cases.
Statistics show almost one recorded homophobic incident a day in Northern Ireland, with 48% of LGBT students experiencing bullying because of their sexual orientation.
People are dying because of how they are treated and granting basic equality rights is a starting point in how we begin to address this.
That is why in my year in office I put equality at the heart of my agenda.
I was proud to leave office standing with members of the LGBT community to show my full support for them and to demand change.
If we each do what we can to create an open, welcoming and inclusive Belfast, I believe this time next year there will be no need for another marriage equality march.
Nuala McAllister, Alliance Party, Belfast City Hall