Politicians from across Northern Ireland’s political spectrum united on Thursday (June 20) to call for marriage equality, anti-bullying legislation and gender recognition reform.
Leaders and members of the legislative assembly (MLAs) from four of Northern Ireland’s five main political parties attended the PinkNews Belfast Summer Reception, supported by Citi, Ulster Bank and charity partner The Rainbow Project. The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) was the only party not in attendance.
Speaking in Stormont’s Great Hall, Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) leader Robin Swann said he found it “disappointing” that the building remained without a functioning government a year on from the last Belfast reception.
He acknowledged that for the LGBT+ community, “it’s not as if there was an avalanche of legislation that benefitted you passing through this place in the past 10 years.”
“If and when we restore devolution Stormont must offer a platform and bring representation and legislation for our LGBT+ community,” he said.
“Stormont must offer a platform and bring representation and legislation for our LGBT+ community.”
—Robin Swann, UUP leader
Turning his attention to Northern Ireland’s LGBT+ youth, he called on politicians to “grasp the mettle and experience of those in our schools.”
“When I spoke here last year I reflected on the horrific statistics on LGBT+ youth in Northern Ireland,” he continued, “where two out of three do not feel that school is a welcoming environment. Where three out of five say they have had suicidal thoughts because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”
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Colum Eastwood, leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), echoed Swann’s words and called the fight for LGBT+ rights “this generation’s civil rights movement.”
Announcing that the power-sharing talks should yield a result in the “next few days,” he said: “If we walk out of Stormont next week and we have not resolved these issues then we are letting down all of our young people.”
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