First published on LabourList
Today I will be at Brighton Pride with LGBT Labour, marching for rights and recognition, celebrating the great strides forward. Since 2001 the legal situation for LGBT people in the United Kingdom has been transformed. But not for all of our citizens.
Today is also Belfast Pride – a timely reminder of the contrasting rights within our union and the now stark contrast on the island of Ireland too. Just last year the Republic voted to change the Catholic country’s constitution and recognise marriage equally for all.
In Northern Ireland gay marriage is still an aspiration. The LGBT community are second-class citizens before the law. This cannot be right and must be changed.
The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) backed Brexit because it believed it would make the UK stronger. But they are the stumbling block to making the UK more equal. They revel in a different settlement from the rest of the British Isles and it is just wrong.
Time and again the DUP deny not just the LGBT community the rights they deserve, but the people of Northern Ireland of the equality before the law that they would like to see.
The Northern Ireland Assembly has voted in favour of equal marriage but the DUP have used procedure to veto it. Lawmakers in Stormont who have not joined our sister party, the SDLP, and others in advocating for equality do not need telling what to do by the British Labour Party or anyone else on the mainland but they should start listening to their electorates on this issue.
The most recent Ipsos MORI poll on the issue suggests 70 per cent agree with the law change. And it cannot come soon enough.
In the mean time Labour members, and all those who support marriage equality, need to do their upmost to show support and solidarity with those fighting to right this wrong. You can sign up to Love Equality – the official campaign for gay marriage in the province – and get involved today.
Today the LGBT community and their allies will take to the streets of Belfast calling for equality. By this time next year we should all see they have it.
Richard Angell is the LGBT officer of the Labour Party Irish Society and director of Progress