Editorial - Marriage and inclusion

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One of the most commonly used words in any discussion on society or politics in the North is surely equality.

Ironically, a concept designed to unite everyone on a level playing field means different things to different people, depending on their political outlook.

While the very idea of power sharing is supposed to be based on equality, at various times since the establishment of the institutions, parties have used equality to attempt to divide opinion.

Such a scenario arose yesterday with the debate on legal recognition for same sex marriage. As has happened in the past when the issue was discussed, the Assembly was divided along traditional community lines.

Many people have strongly held views on the subject and it clearly divides public opinion.

The DUP’s move to table a petition of concern - effectively a veto ensuring the Sinn Féin motion was not carried - highlights the lack of commitment to the key principal of equality that still exists in some parties 15 years from the signing of the Good Friday Agreement.

As with many other issues, the Assembly could learn a valuable lesson from Derry when it comes to gay rights and equality. These days Derry enjoys a reputation of a gay-friendly and tolerant city, something that was not always the case but was obtained through engagement, dialogue and the promotion of equality.

This battle may have been about gay marriage but it goes beyond that and illustrates the distance still to go towards an equitable society.