People Before Profit picketed the DUP office in Londonderry on Monday as a petition of concern by the party scuppered a majority backed motion tabled by SDLP MLA Colum Eastwood in favour of marriage equality.
“The protest was held in the run-up to the vote at Stormont today; a majority of MLAs voted in favour of the motion to support equal marriage but, because the DUP had issued a petition of concern, the democratic will of the majority of people in Northern Ireland was ignored,” said Goretti Horgan of PBP.
Moving that the Assembly call on the Executive to table legislation to allow for same-sex marriage, Mr Eastwood said: “It is about two people being allowed the opportunity to take part in an institution that I and many other people are allowed to take part in.
“It should not be the case that we have a barrier to civil marriage just because of people’s sexual orientation. If we really want to promote marriage as a positive thing for people to be involved in, we should open it up to all people who wish to make that commitment because of the love that they have for their partner.”
During the debate Sinn Féin Daithí McKay innovatively made the argument for gay marriage on economic grounds as well as on grounds of equality.
“Here is an opportunity for the hospitality sector in the North to avail itself of gay marriages. A lot of gay couples will go to Dundalk or Donegal instead of Ballycastle or Belfast, which is trade lost to the North, so there is also an economic argument that we should not forget,” he said.
DUP MLA Gregory Campbell, opposing the motion, told MLAs that just because something enjoys popular support doesn’t mean it should be automatically introduced.
Addressing Mr McKay, the East Londonderry MLA commented:: “He said that a public opinion poll showed that about 68 per cent were in favour. Does he agree that that is just a little bit lower than the figure that traditional opinion polls throughout the UK have given for those in favour of the return of capital punishment? Would he go there?”
Mr McKay replied: “We are getting some very silly arguments today. That is the second one that we have had on the Floor. It goes to show that the Members opposite are losing the argument.
“There is no rational debate coming from across the Floor. The fact is that this has already been introduced in the South, across the water and the United States of America. You can hold back the tide only for so long.”