Derry & Strabane Council have passed a motion stating that same sex couples should be allowed to marry by law in the wake of the landmark referendum south of the border.
The motion was put forward by local Sinn Fein Councillor Colly Kelly and backed by the vast majority of councillors at the monthly meeting of the council in the Guildhall on Thursday.
I speak on this in a very personal respect. My eldest son undertook a Civil Partnership. I attended and was proud to do so. I am proud of my son. Everyone has the right to a loving relationship,UUP Councillor Derek Hussey
Colr. Kelly said the north was now “lagging behind the rest of Ireland and a growing number of countries on this”, adding that passing the motion would send out a “powerful, positive message of acceptance” to the LGBT community.
SDLP Councillor Shauna Cusack said the north was one of the last bastions were equality for gay people was denied. “How embarrassing for us,” she said, adding:
“The definition of marriage can mean many different things to many different people, especially in a historical and cultural context.”
Colr. Cusack added that trying to prevent gay marriage was like trying to push Rosa Parks back to the rear of the bus, or trying to stop black and white people eating at the same table.
“Separate is not equal so let us be rid of it,” she said.
Opposing the motion, the DUP’s Helen Clintock said her party believed marriage was a special institution existing since ancient times and should remain as is.
She also said it was accepted that this was not a human rights issue.
UUP Councillor Derek Hussey meanwhile said the characterisation of those opposed to same sex marriage as being anti-gay was wrong.
“Nothing could be further from the truth,” he said. “I speak on this in a very personal respect. My eldest son undertook a Civil Partnership. I attended and was proud to do so. I am proud of my son.
“Everyone has the right to a loving relationship,” he said, but added that marriage was a religious sacrament and thus should not be changed.
Backing the motion, Darren O’Reilly said the councillors had a duty to represent all sections of the communities they were elected to serve.
Colr. O’Reilly said he knew about the “abuse, violence” suffered by people in the LGBT community and said many Derry people had been forced to move to Dublin or London to find a level of tolerance and peace- “young men and women,” he said “whose only crime was they were gay.”
Also backing the motion, Independent Councillor Sean Carr said he knew what it felt like to be discriminated against in the council chamber. He said that it was now time the north got to vote on the matter.
“There is no chance this is ever going to go through the Assembly due to the petition of concern, so it is time we got a vote and let the people decide.”
In a recorded vote, the motion was carried by 28 (for) to right (against), with UUP Councillor Mary Hamilton abstaining.