Fight for marriage equality ‘not over yet’ - say local politicians

Foyle MP Elisha McCallion with colleagues outside the High Court in Belfast on Thursday.
Foyle MP Elisha McCallion with colleagues outside the High Court in Belfast on Thursday.

Politicians in Derry have vowed that the fight for marriage equality will continue despite last week’s setback in the High Court.

Sinn Fein Foyle MP, Elisha McCallion and SDLP leader Colum Eastwood, were speaking after the High Court in Belfast dismissed two cases challenging a ban on same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland.

The decision in the case was that the Assembly must decide on social policy.

The North remains the only part of these islands where same-sex marriage is not permitted.

Sinn Féin MP Elisha McCallion said she was “bitterly disappointed” at the judgement, which was delivered on Thursday, but said the fight to achieve marriage equality would continue.

Commenting outside the High Court after attending the hearing with party colleagues Chris Hazzard MP and Carál Ní Chuilín MLA, she said: “We are obviously disappointed by this decision and we know that the couples involved in this case are looking at grounds for appeal. I want to pay tribute to them and offer them our continuing best wishes.

“However, people should not have to resort to the courts in order to access their rights, which are available across western Europe. Equal marriage should have been enacted in the North a long time ago. It has been consistently denied because of the actions of the DUP - in defiance of wider public opinion and a majority in the Assembly.

“The ongoing denial of rights by the DUP, with the support of the British Government, which are enjoyed by citizens rights across these islands is unacceptable. This is an issue which is at the heart of the current political crisis.”

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood MLA has said that the High Court judgment on marriage equality demands a response from legislators to do their jobs and make equality law.

Foyle MLA, Mr Eastwood, who tabled the first Assembly motion calling for marriage equality to achieve an affirmative majority, said: “Ours is now the only small corner of these islands where we maintain a hierarchy of love.

“Over the course of the last number of days and weeks, political leaders have once again caused hurt and harm to LGBT people here. That must come to an end.

“The LGBT community is not a punch bag to be hit again and again.

“Reform of the Petition of Concern can unlock this and so many other issues. Let those who claim to be democrats put down the weapons of veto and vitriol. It’s time to resolve this,” he maintained.