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Politician says gay brother felt unwelcome in Northern Ireland

Politician says gay brother felt unwelcome in Northern Ireland

The leader of a political party in Northern Ireland says his gay brother has left the region because of the way it treats LGBT+ people.

Colum Eastwood is leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) in Northern Ireland. He said his brother, Liam, moved to London because was denied equal rights and wasn’t treated as a ‘full citizen’ in Northern Ireland.

Colum Eastwood, SDLP party leader.

‘This isn’t about me and my brother, there are many, many, people in the community who feel like that,’ the party leader said in a BBC interview.

‘If people who love each other still aren’t entitled to get married, that’s a disgrace and has to stop and there is a simple way of fixing it.’

NI struggling to legalize same-sex marriage

Ireland is struggling to legalize same-sex marriage, with the issue being debated five times since 2012. The government though, voted the bill through at the last reading in November 2015, only for it to be blocked by the DUP party.

‘We are not surprised by this story,’ said John O’Doherty, director of The Rainbow Project, which promotes the rights of the LGBT+ community in Northern Ireland. ’Many LGBT people have contacted The rainbow Project stating that they left Northern Ireland because they did not feel welcome.’

O’Doherty told GayStarNews that extending the same-sex marriage rights to Northern Ireland would be a major boost the country’s LGBT+ community. ‘Northern Ireland remains the only part of the UK and Ireland where same sex marriages are not legal, which leads many to feel that they are second class citizens, and are not equal to others across the UK and Ireland.’

Despite this, O’Doherty said it has never been a better time to be LGBT in Northern Ireland and the country is a ‘very welcoming and open place’.

‘However, there remains a very vocal minority opposed to LGBT equality and in some instances opposed to LGBT people more generally. Additionally there are a number of shortfalls in terms of LGBT equality legislation including marriage equality and education reform which make LGBT people feel unwelcome and under valued, he said.

Belfast Pride keeping LGBT in the spotlight

A major issue facing the whole on Northern Ireland right now is the fact that the country currently has no government in place, meaning almost no legislation can be passed. Even so, Doherty said past governments have not properly addressed the inequalities faced by LGBT groups.

’An example of something government can do is the development and publication of a sexual orientation strategy which has been sought for over 10 years,’ he told GayStarNews.

‘Despite commitments in programmes for government over the last 10 years, the Northern Ireland Assembly has failed time and time again to publish a draft strategy. Committing all government departments and developing a strategy to address the inequalities experienced by LGBT people can help us achieve a society that is welcoming of all and values diversity.’

See also:

Ireland apologizes to men convicted of historical gay sex crimes

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