This month is Pride month. This year, June is also 50 years on from the pivotal Stonewall riots. We’ve come a long way, yet still couples in Northern Ireland are still denied the right to marry the person that they love.
Internationally, huge progress has been made when it comes to the rights and freedoms of LGBT+ people. Just this summer, Taiwan became the first place in Asia to legalise same-sex marriage while Botswana decriminalised homosexuality in a landmark ruling. But we still have so far to go. In the UK many LGBT+ people still face a grim reality in which discrimination, both socially and in the eyes of the law, blights their everyday reality. The shocking image of a young same-sex couple covered in blood having been subjected to violence on a bus in London this month was a stark reminder that bigotry and prejudice persist.
The shocking image of a young same-sex couple covered in blood having been subjected to violence on a bus in London this month was a stark reminder that bigotry and prejudice persist.
That image made me sick to my stomach. It also strengthened my resolve to fight for equality for all. We cannot let hate win. It will not win. Liberal Democrats have always been clear that LGBT+ rights are human rights and that these rights are at the core of who we are as a party. It is why we pushed forward the amendment to repeal Section 28, it is why we legislated for same-sex marriage, and it is why we are now continuing to campaign for same-sex marriage to be expanded to Northern Ireland.
The murder of journalist Lyra McKee was heart-breaking and deplorable. This heinous act not only put the tensions in Northern Ireland into stark relief but also served as a painful reminder of this government’s failure to roll out same-sex marriage to the whole of our country. After Lyra’s murder, her partner spoke out, urging the Conservatives to ensure that couples in Northern Ireland can marry the person they love at home and have that marriage legally recognised, regardless of gender.
It is clear that Westminster must act to help give couples in Northern Ireland the rights and freedoms those in the rest of the UK have.
Frustratingly her calls, along with those by countless other campaigners, have so far fallen on deaf ears. Earlier this year, I co-sponsored a Bill in Parliament that would bring same-sex marriage laws in Northern Ireland in line with those in England, Wales, and Scotland. While I would prefer that local politicians in Belfast take this decision, with the collapse of the Assembly it is clear that Westminster must act to help give couples in Northern Ireland the rights and freedoms those in the rest of the UK have.
Earlier this month Liberal Democrat Leader Vince Cable did a video for Pink News where he reiterated the Liberal Democrats’ clear support for same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland. I am proud to be in a party that has been unequivocal in our support for equality and I know that whoever takes over from Vince as our party’s next Leader will ensure that the fight for equality remains at the top of our agenda. This Pride month, let’s celebrate how far we’ve come, celebrate our sexual and gender diversity, but let’s also recommit to tackling discrimination and prejudice wherever it exists.