A Fermanagh man says he remains hopeful that the North will soon allow same sex couples to legally marry here.
Shane Sweeney from Irvinestown was speaking to the Herald as the Republic marks one year since making history by becoming the first country in the world to legalise same-sex marriages.
On May 22nd 2015, 62% of people in the Republic backed the extension of civil marriage rights to gay couples. The historic law was enacted on 16th November and since then more than 400 same-sex couples have wed in the South.
However, across the border in the North it was a bittersweet moment for the LGBT community who are still waiting for the day when they can legally tie the knot. Northern Ireland remains the only part of the UK where gay couples cannot get married. Efforts to lift the ban have been defeated five times in the Assembly with the DUP arguing that gay couples already have the ability to enter into civil partnerships and there is no appetite for further change.
Despite this, campaigners like 30-year-old Shane remain hopeful the law will one day be changed.
“It’s like you’re standing with your face pressed up against the looking glass at your peers in the South. It’s a strange sign of the times when we’re taking social cues from the Republic which was once defined as a staunchly Catholic country,” he said.
Last month Shane and his 24-year-old fiance Eoin McCabe from Belfast helped to launch a Love Equality campaign that aims to secure a change in the law over the course of the new Assembly’s five-year term.
Shane says it’s time for the rights of gay couples to be recognised.
“At the moment it’s like politicians are saying that we’ll tolerate you but I’m not there to be tolerated or treated as a second class citizen. We’re not asking for special status but we just want to be treated the same as everyone else. I don’t think it’s an unreasonable thing to ask for.
“Same-sex marriage might not seem important to the politicians but it is to the people who elected them. It’s frustrating but we will eventually get there,” he adds.
Eoin and Shane became engaged in April at the Berlin Wall after four years together. They hope to get married in front of family and friends in Fermanagh.
“It was a very emotional and special day for both of us. It was also symbolic considering the political significance of the wall, which for me meant breaking down the barriers that are in front of us in terms of accessing equal marriage.
“At our engagement party people were asking us when we are setting a date but we don’t want to until we can be properly married. Both Eoin and I see a civil partnership as a second tier system whereby we’re good but not quite as good. When you propose to someone you ask them to be your husband and not your civil partner, which just seems very clinical,” said Shane.
Meanwhile a poll published this week by Amnesty International Northern Ireland shows that 68% of people here back the introduction of gay marriage.
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Posted: 6:00 pm May 26, 2016