Mock gay marriage at Stormont shows strong demand for equality

Students and others gather to protest the lack of equal marriage rights in Northern Ireland

On Monday 22nd  May, a demonstration began in front of the Parliament buildings in Belfast. Many individuals, primarily from the collective student bodies of Northern Ireland (including St. Mary’s and QUB), stood outside of Stormont in mellow but determined protest, organised by NUS-USI alongside Love Equality.

Students and others were there to protest the lack of equal marriage privileges for Same-Sex couples in NI.

Standing in solidarity, the collected protesters stood calmly and with a great sense of togetherness, playing music from a nearby car adorned with rainbow flags. The event primarily revolved around an exchange of vows and a non-official wedding of two young men, mere feet from the steps of the Parliament Building, to showcase their unity and protest to the government.

Neal Rush and Mark McLoughlin shared a lot with the crowd of onlookers. They detailed their meeting in Belgium, and their desire to one day see themselves married in the country they both love. They voiced their disapproval of the current marriage laws in Northern Ireland, remarking that NI was the only UK country to not yet allow them to be married.

Neal Rush and Mark McLoughlin making their speeches. Photograph by Jonathan Porter/PressEye.com

After declarations of love and an appeal for marital equality, they shared a heartfelt kiss (much to the audience’s fanfare). There were then a few brief speeches, followed by a series of rousing chants that demanded equal marriage rights, before finally the event rounded off with a few photos snapped by gathering journalists.

Overall the event was small in scope but served as a good case study to show the growing movement of the LGBT community in Belfast, and NI in general. With less and less people feeling they need to hide themselves, and with the backing of most student demographics, the movement towards marriage equality in NI seems to be progressing healthily.

Though the movement has been met with resistance, the genuine passion I saw in the people outside Stormont felt like a fire that would be pretty hard to snuff out. It seems likely that as more individuals become more comfortable in themselves, the fight for equal rights will continue.

It is unfortunate that what is clearly genuine love and passion is being caught up in this continued struggle for representation. But the individuals I interacted with at this demonstration seemed prepared to endure that fight; and we may all end up the better for it.

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