FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
On Monday 23rd of July the Equal Marriage Northern Ireland Campaign was disgusted to learn of the latest moves made by veteran Ulster Unionist Ken Maginnis in his opposition to marriage equality for same sex couples.
Being discontent with merely displaying his obvious prejudice against the LGBT community last month with his now infamous “rung on the ladder to bestiality” comment, he appears to now be gearing up to actively campaign against the policy exchange group which in effect equates to campaigning against basic equality in our society.
Our campaign is still in its fledgling stages but has already gained support from a wide range of sectors within Northern Ireland. At the first meeting Anna Lo (Alliance) and Caitriona Ruane (SF) delivered promising support which coupled with the wider support within our community from heterosexual and LGBT sectors only further strengthens our position as a campaign.
Marriage equality before the law is a legal precedent in any tolerant shared society today; how dare anyone suggest that the unifying love that is the same for all people regardless of gender, sexuality or creed is somehow perverse if expressed via a same-sex civil marriage.
Love is a human experience not a political statement and Marriage Equality is a human right not a heterosexual or specifically Christian privilege.
Circular dinosaur rhetoric that plays off the fears, intolerance and ignorance of the public no longer phases us as an out and proud campaign. As Barack Obama says “Religious freedom doesn’t mean you can force others to live by your own beliefs”. Secular society is supposed to protect the rights and freedoms of all equally.
We would like to appeal to the Ulster Unionist Party along with all its members to deal decisively with Lord Maginnis and join Basil McCrea and John McCalister at Belfast Pride which begins this Friday with the Parade on August 4th this year.
Being proud of our diversity is what Pride celebrates while also being a reminder of how difficult the struggle for Equality and rights can sometimes be; this is why we declare that our campaign is in it for the long haul. We shall not give up.
To impart some friendly advice on Lord Maginnis we would say that it is much easier to convince the public that you are “not homophobic” if you refrain from public outbursts of intolerance such as your implicit suggestion that homosexuality; what you negatively refer to as “this practice” (as if it were unnatural or ought to be prohibited) is somehow abhorrent.
What people like Lord Maginnis refuse to acknowledge is the far reaching and damaging results that such bigotry when relayed to the public as matter of fact can and has indeed cause; It has been documented as creating such a hostile environment that the health, well-being and safety of those who identify (Publicly or privately) as LGBT becomes seriously at risk.
Homophobia is on the rise in Northern Ireland; most likely whipped up by public figures such as Ken Maginnis and Edwin Poots. The Equality Commission NI recently published a survey into social attitudes and discrimination in Northern Ireland that alarmingly found a quarter of people would object to having a gay or bisexual neighbour and four in ten would object to a close relative forming a relationship with a gay or bisexual person.
Perverse hatred that promotes discrimination against the LGBT community must come to an end swiftly if our society is to progress forward. Until such time as Homophobia levels dramatically fall and our society adopts genuine equality as a basic legal precedent that includes same sex marriage we dare not claim to be a liberal democracy.
We thank the Policy Exchange for supporting equal marriage and hope to extrapolate more support within a Northern Ireland context; the dominoe effect is already taking down barriers with Belfast City council standing as a beacon of Equal Marriage to all others.
Gary Spedding – Campaign Coordinator
Peter Agnew – QUB LGBT
Equal Marriage Northern Ireland
Find our campaign on twitter (@EqualMarriageNI)