Alliance Councillors in both Belfast and Ards and North Down have tabled urgent motions calling for all couples across Northern Ireland, regardless of sexual orientation, to have the right to civil marriage – with legal protection for faith groups that want it.
The move follows the overwhelming yes vote for equal marriage during the referendum in Ireland last week and is the latest action by Alliance in moving the debate forward in Northern Ireland.
Councillor Emmet McDonough-Brown said: “Ireland’s result last week has left Northern Ireland out of step on equality issues. As it stands a same sex couple can now legally marry in all other parts of the UK and Ireland and the LGBT community should also have the same rights here.
“The Alliance Party is committed to delivering a shared society for everyone, based on civil and religious liberty and equality for all – regardless of age, gender, disability, race, ethnicity or sexual orientation – and has continually led the way on LGBT issues, including adoption and tackling homophobic bullying in schools.
“Alliance supports the extension of state provided civil marriage to same sex couples, while recognising protections are needed for those faith groups that wish to continue to observe and practise marriage within their beliefs.
“But there has been a level of scaremongering by others around equal marriage, and we need to be clear – equality for all is central to a democratic society. Dialogue and mutual respect are essential, rather than playing on pre-existing fears.
“I hope all Belfast City Councillors will be able to get behind Alliance. Simply put the words ‘I love you’ mean the same whether you are straight or gay. So should the words ‘marry me’. I look forward to engaging with all my Council colleagues on Monday night.”