So the news today is that the Constitution Convention for Ireland decided with 79 votes in favour to 18 against to recommend to the Oireachtas that a referendum be placed before Irish Citizens over the issue of marriage equality.
If the people of the 26 counties of the Irish Republic vote in favour of allowing their fellow citizens the right to marriage equality, they did allow civil partnerships like those in the UK only 2 years ago, Northern Ireland will stick out as a sore thumb in these isles. The Good Friday Agreement, and the subsequent Northern Ireland Act, allows all people to identify as British or Irish or both. It also recognises that there is diversity in our society that all groups whether Unionist or Nationalist, racial minorities, the disabled, victims of the troubles, women, those with children and those without and those who are LGBT to co-exist and not be discriminated against (under Section 75).
However, Northern Ireland by not recognising equal marriages and merely reducing them to the level of Civil Partnerships is failing to allow LGBT married people to identify as either fully British or fully Irish should legislation be passed in the Republic, England, Wales and Scotland. There is a possibility that there will be discriminatory practices in place and in action against those marriages carried out in either the rest of the UK or rest of the island of Ireland.
In light of this latest development the Northern Ireland Assembly has to at least look at the recognition of samee-sex marriages carried out elsewhere being recognised in Northern Ireland. But more so those who are putting their own personal views ahead of the good of the population as a whole need to understand that representative government means they have to represent.
Equal marriage does not harm anybody. It actually promotes monogamy in a part of society that those most ardently against believe is totally promiscuous. So are the people in the unionist parties (as it is largely them) who object to marriage equality actually doing so for the wider good of society? I don’t think so. Indeed some of them have on issues of equality said they are not elected to represent all parts of society. Well so much for cohesion, sharing and integration.
As Liberal Democrats we have helped bring the subject of marriage equality to the point of becoming legislation in England, Scotland and Wales. We have also worked with Northern Irish parties and individuals to bring it to the political agenda here and we will continue to do so until we have the same rights to marriage as the rest of the UK and indeed the island of Ireland.