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Image courtesy of Metro
On 13 January 2020, Same-sex marriage was finally legalised in Northern Ireland. This moment is crucial both historically and culturally as it signifies not only Northern Ireland’s long-overdue step into the 21st Century but furthermore the UK as a whole. Said marriages will begin to take place as of February and, as such, Northern Ireland has taken a huge leap toward equality as it enters a new decade, hopefully a trend we will see continue going forward.
This step, however, is one that is long overdue. Since 2014, when David Cameron was PM, same-sex marriage has been legal across Scotland, England and Wales; since 2015 same-sex marriage has been legal in Ireland itself. However, Northern Ireland has lagged behind these countries that are not even progressive but merely in the present (for example, the Netherlands was the first nation to legalise same-sex marriage back in 2001). While Patrick Corrigan of Amnesty International has called this ‘a historic day for equality and human rights’ I believe that it equally portrays just how tired and devoid of energy the campaign for LGBT+ rights has become over recent years. This was a change that should have been implemented alongside the rest of the UK, however, due to complacency and wilful indolence, progress has been slow.
The reason for such gradual change lies at the foot of ignorant bigots and shameful politicians. The DUP (Democratic Unionist Party) of Northern Ireland were able to block the legalisation of same-sex marriage back in 2015, despite the law receiving a majority in favour. Since then their bigotry and hatred has festered into not just Northern Ireland but the whole of the UK, helping to prop up Theresa May’s government in return for certain ‘assurances’ which no doubt helped to increase their influence over Westminster and waylay any progress in Northern Ireland on the issue of marriage. As expected, their leader, Arlene Foster, stated that the change in law was one that had been ‘imposed’ upon her country, clearly implying she and her party believe the idea of two men or two women being married to be an imposition upon them. As opposed to people rising up and campaigning in droves against such moves by the DUP however, there has only been a movement in Northern Ireland itself, with the rest of the UK seemingly satisfied now their rights have been acknowledged.
This then speaks to the amount of work that still needs to be done in the UK, Europe, and beyond in order to achieve unanimous support over an issue that should already be resolved and quite frankly has absolutely nothing to do with those outside of said marriages anyway. Out of 195 countries on this planet, a mere 29 recognise same-sex marriage. It is my belief that for as long as people support bigots like Arlene Foster and the DUP change will always be excruciatingly slow. In order to really push Europe and the rest of the world into what could truly be a new decade in terms of equality and support, it is obvious that movements such as those for same-sex marriage need to be continually pushed regardless of the laws and legislation of one’s own country.
Should people become indolent and selfish, as I believe some in the UK may have after 2014’s ruling, progress will be slow. If, however there is a reinvigorated energy and ferocity to deliver equality for all, I have no doubt in my mind that the support for hateful people like Arlene Foster and the DUP will decay. For now, however, it is important to celebrate the historic decision in Northern Ireland which will hopefully only lead to greater progress and support for those whose rights have been neglected and ignored for so long.