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Scottish leaders back calls for marriage equality in Northern Ireland

By Ross Semple

The leaders of every major political party in Scotland have expressed support for the introduction of same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland.

Marriage equality in Northern Ireland is back under the spotlight after Theresa May struck a deal with the DUP to continue governing. The DUP, the largest party in Northern Ireland, and its representatives have a long history of anti-LGBT+ statements and policies.

The DUP has blocked equal marriage legislation multiple times in the Northern Ireland assembly – most recently in November 2015, when a majority of the Assembly actually voted to legalise same-sex marriage, only for the DUP to effectively veto the measure under the terms of Stormont’s power-sharing agreement.

Northern Ireland remains the only part of the UK without equal marriage, despite widespread public support.

Now, the leaders of Scotland’s main political parties have pledged their support to the cause. Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland and leader of the Scottish National Party, said: “I was proud to play a part in the introduction of equal marriage legislation in Scotland and have been thrilled to see the positive reaction to equal marriage across the country.

“The debate over equal marriage in Scotland did more than just simply allow people to marry, it also helped to challenge negative attitudes that still exist today in our society towards LGBTI people and show, quite simply, that same-sex couples are just as valued as opposite sex couples.

“I offer my support to those continuing the campaign for marriage equality in Northern Ireland.”

Four of Scotland’s main political leaders are LGBT+. Ruth Davidson, the openly lesbian leader of the Scottish Conservative party, said: “I’m proud to support those campaigning for marriage equality and I’m optimistic that this is a battle that can be won. Equal marriage isn’t about one religion or country or community. It’s much simpler than that. At its heart, equal marriage is about the people of Northern Ireland being afforded the same rights as everybody else.

“So as thousands march in Belfast this Saturday, I have this message for them. Change is coming. And it’s a change for the better.”

Their statements come in the wake of a protest march due to be held in Belfast tomorrow (July 1). The equal marriage march will start at Writers’ Square in Belfast at 2:30pm, culminating in a rally in front of Belfast City Hall.

The march is being organised by the Love Equality campaign, led by the Rainbow Project, Amnesty International, Irish Congress of Trade Unions, Cara-Friend, NUS-USI and HereNI.

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