The Yes vote in Ireland's same-sex marriage referendum leaves the North as the last bastion of discrimination against gay people, according to Amnesty International. Northern Ireland is now the only region in the UK not to extend civil marriage rights to same-sex couples.
"This historic result will echo around the world," Amnesty's Northern Ireland programme director Patrick Corrigan said. "It shows how a once socially conservative country can transform itself into a beacon of equality. Northern Ireland is now the last bastion of discrimination against gay people in these islands."
Amnesty has announced a march in Belfast on June 13th calling for legislation for same-sex marriage in the North. The rally is being organised jointly by Amnesty, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and the North's largest LGBTI support group, the Rainbow Project.
“Most people want to live in a country where such discrimination is consigned to the dustbin of history,” said Mr Corrigan. “They want to live in a place where all citizens are guaranteed equal rights and equal opportunities – that’s the message of the march for equality.”
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said the referendum result demonstrated Ireland was increasingly embracing equality, human rights and respect.
“Today we can all rightfully be proud to be Irish and part of an increasingly tolerant, pluralist and outward-looking Ireland. Politicians, particularly in the North, need to reflect on this progress. The world is moving on and Ireland is taking the lead. Pride in Ireland has taken on a whole new meaning.”
SDLP leader Dr Alasdair McDonnell offered his congratulations to Yes campaigners. “As a result of the referendum result, Ireland now goes forward as a much fairer place for people to live, work and do business – regardless of class, creed or sexual orientation.”
Four motions in favour of legislating for same-sex marriage have been rejected at Stormont in recent times. Last month a Sinn Féin motion was defeated by 47 to 49.