Following the disappointing High Court decisions on the cases brought by Chris and Henry Flannagan-Kane and Grainne Close & Shannon Sickles many of us will be asking what the next steps are for Marriage Equality in NI. Stephen Donnan from the Rainbow Project will be answering those questions and explaining a bit more about the Marriage Equality campaign at an event organised by WRDA.

Why marriage equality matters.
Over 40% of LGB+T people in NI have been physically assaulted and 66% have been verbally assaulted. 35% have been denied a good or service. This causes immense stress which impacts on people’s mental health. LGB+T people in NI are 20 times more likely to self-harm and 3 times more likely attempt suicide. Achieving marriage equality is not going to fix these problems but it will help to change attitudes and create a more supportive atmosphere. US states which introduced marriage equality saw a fall in LGB+T teen suicides of 7%. Marriage equality is important for itself but also as a step towards changing the hetero-normative narrative LGB+T people are confronted with every time they leave the house.

Marriage equality strengthens religious freedom.  
The argument is often made that equal marriage will somehow curtail religious freedom but the opposite is true. The current law prevents the Society of Friends from marrying same sex Quakers at a meeting for worship. If the law was changed religious organisations who do not wish to marry same sex couples will not be compelled to, but at the minute religions who do want to offer this service to same sex members are forced not to. Marriage equality will increase religious freedom, not diminish it.

Why is Equal Marriage a Feminist issue?
As a grassroots women’s organisation we are proud to support the campaign for Marriage Equality because we understand that LGB rights are human rights and homophobia is motivated by misogyny.