Members of the LGBTQ community and their allies have protested outside Belfast City Hall today as the campaign to extend marriage equality to Northern Ireland gathers pace.
Same-sex couples in England and Wales have been able to wed legally since March 2014, and same-sex couples in Scotland gained the same rights that December. However, same-sex couples in Northern Ireland remain unable to recognise their relationships in the same way.
This puts them at a disadvantage not just compared to same-sex couples in other UK regions, but also same-sex couples in the Republic of Ireland, where the first same-sex marriages took place in November 2015 following an historic referendum.
Today's marriage equality rally in Belfast was attended by several thousand people, The Guardian reports, and included a speech from Sara Canning, partner of murdered Northern Irish journalist Lyra McKee.
Canning urged Prime Minister Theresa May to introduce equal marriage legislation from Westminster while Northern Ireland's own parliament remains hobbled by a political deadlock, telling the crowd: "We pay our taxes. We are covered by the same laws… why should we not be afforded the same rights in marriage?"
"Same-sex couples come from every single religious, cultural and racial background," she added. "A vote passing on equal marriage would not be a ‘win’ for any one side – it would be a win for all sides."
However, May's Conservative government is propped up by an agreement with Northern Ireland's DUP, a party which has repeatedly blocked legislation seeking to introduce same-sex marriage in the region.
“In Derry Girls I play the wee lesbian, Clare Devlin. Since the show has come out, I’ve received so many messages from people from all over the world to say how much [creator] Lisa McGee including an LGBTQ character in her show has meant to them.
“However, what a lot of these people don’t realise is that Clare Devlin would still not be allowed to be married in her own country in 2019.
“I’ve had the privilege of visiting the incredible Rainbow Project in Belfast and have seen the invaluable work they do with the little financial support they have - they are incredible. The LGBTQ community in Northern Ireland deserves to celebrate who they love with the full recognition and support of the law. Love is a human right, and I’m proud to stand with you all to fight for it.”