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Northern Ireland still bans Gay Marriage

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Barrister says Northern Ireland stands out as backward-looking ‘blot on the map’ because of repeated refusal to legislate for same-sex marriage.

Northern Ireland’s ban on gay marriage suggests to the rest of the world a “backward-looking and divided” society, the high court in Belfast has heard.

Two gay couples – Gráinne Close and Shannon Sickles and Chris and Henry Flanagan-Kane – have been granted permission for a judicial review of the Northern Ireland assembly’s repeated refusal to legislate for gay marriage.

Their lawyers believe the refusal is in breach of the European convention on human rights. David McMillen QC said in court on Thursday: “Northern Ireland stands out as effectively a blot on the map … It’s nothing less than state discrimination of a class of people who have been marginalised for many years.”

He continued: “The lifelong commitment of these four applicants is the same in every respect as that of any other couple. Those relationships deserve to be recognised as such by having equal access to civil marriage. It’s demeaning and offensive that their unions have been relegated to a second-class status, namely civil partnerships.”

The Democratic Unionist party has vetoed five proposals in the regional parliament to introduce same-sex marriage. Under the complex rules of power-sharing in Northern Ireland, the DUP can use a mechanism known as a “petition of concern” to veto any legislation that it believes cannot command both Protestant and Catholic support.

McMillen said the DUP’s use of a petition of concern on this issue was “manifestly inappropriate”. He said the ban on same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland was “perhaps the last great legislative instance of discrimination”.

The DUP, especially assembly members who belong to evangelical Christian churches, claims to represent a silent majority. However, an Ipsos Mori poll in July found that 68% of people in Northern Ireland were in favour of same-sex marriage equality.

Source: The Guardian

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