Northern Ireland

Belfast Pride: NI will endorse same-sex marriage, says Ruth Davidson

Ruth Davidson Image copyright Press Eye
Image caption Ruth Davidson said a "tidal wave" of public support would lead to the legalisation of same-sex marriage

Same-sex marriage will soon be endorsed in Northern Ireland as public support overwhelms opposition to it, the openly gay leader of the Scottish Conservatives has said.

Ruth Davidson was speaking in Belfast on Tuesday at the city's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Pride week.

Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK where gay marriage is illegal.

Ms Davidson said the "time is coming" when same-sex couples in the region would be allowed to marry.

"With public support and parliamentary majority the waters are building and the dam will burst," she added.

"I truly believe that tidal wave is set to overflow and that you will, in short order, change history."

Blocked

On her trip to Belfast, Ms Davidson visited a new mural depicting a lesbian couple that was added to a wall in the city last week as part of a campaign to legalise gay marriage.

The Northern Ireland Assembly has considered lifting the ban on same-sex marriage on five occasions.

Four of those votes failed on a simple majority basis, and although a slim majority of MLAs backed the the latest attempt in November last year, it was ultimately blocked by the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).

Image copyright Press Eye
Image caption A mural depicting a lesbian couple was added to a wall in Belfast ahead of the city's Pride week

Gay couples can enter into civil partnerships in Northern Ireland and the DUP claims there is no desire for change on the issue.

Ms Davidson, who is a Protestant and a unionist, is engaged to a Catholic Irishwoman.

She said: "I am a practising Christian - I care deeply about the role of the church in the public realm.

"I believe passionately that it is a force for good.

Mature

"I might not always agree with every intervention churches make in politics, but I defend their right to do so.

"In Scotland, we made sure that as we passed equal marriage, we also protected the rights of religious groups.

"We owe it to those who take an opposing view to engage and explain, to discuss and persuade.

"You don't effect change by shouting down your opponents, whose votes you need."

She added that legalising same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland would "make every couple in this country equal in the eyes of the law".

Earlier this year, Finance Minister Máirtín Ó Muilleoir asked his officials to work on a draft bill to introduce same-sex marriage.

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