The Marriage Equality Rally In Belfast Is A Sign Of Progress
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Politics and Activism

The Marriage Equality Rally In Belfast Shows Society Has No Choice But To Progress

Marriage equality should not be something we still have to fight for, but it is.

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The Marriage Equality Rally In Belfast Shows Society Has No Choice But To Progress
Ashleigh Clayton

There's something romantic about rain. The way a lucid, lambent sky transposes into a glowering one, sometimes in the space of seconds. Clouds pregnant and ready to burst, casting a shadow over the city, causing everyone, just for a second, to hold our breath. Until, finally, with a whoosh of bitter wind, a plethora of rain comes down and kisses every one of us. I find myself thinking how comforting it feels, like an embrace from an estranged lover.

It was oddly poetic, yet it set the scene perfectly. We cheered, chanted and cried out our biddings: we are gay and we are here. You will hear us. Like an incantation of spirit, we called for the Northern Irish and British governments to hear our pleas. The rain wasn't going to ruin our parade.

We were marching for marriage equality. I remember standing back from the crowd to take it all in, my mouth slightly agape and tears stinging my eyes. The largest rally I had ever seen for our cause: a couple of thousand people, at least, marching through the streets of Belfast.

The umbrellas shot open one by one amongst the rainbow sea of piquant placards and multi-colored flags. Everybody looked so happy, though determined, despite the harrowing circumstances. I also noticed the immense number of older couples who had taken time to join in, some with their adorable dogs with little rainbow collars or bandanas.

The rally itself was heart-wrenching. The whole event had been organized by the Love Equality Campaign and lead by Sara Canning, the partner of the journalist who was shot dead in Derry a few weeks previously by dissident republicans. They had been planning to get engaged this week in New York. She stressed that the Northern Ireland marriage inequality was completely unacceptable and demanded change.

The crowd cheered their concurrence and support. Here was the sentence that broke me:

"We pay our taxes, we are governed by the same laws, we live deeply and we love dearly. Why should we not be afforded the same rights in marriage?"

Who can argue with that?

How, in 2019, can we still be fighting for basic human rights? On March 13, 2014, gay marriage was legalized in England and Wales and abortion was outlawed in 1967. Northern Ireland is five years behind the rest of the UK. If a woman chose to abort she could face life imprisonment, even in the case of rape, incest or fetal abnormalities. A same-sex couple who wished to spend the rest of their lives together must travel in order to get acknowledged as a legitimate married couple.

How, Theresa May, can you justify this?

A spokesperson at the rally chimed that 75% of Northern Ireland inhabitants now support marriage equality and 72% are pro-choice. Overwhelming figures that illustrate a future where the archaic laws that infringe human rights are reversed. They cannot fight us for much longer. We will win and, when we do, it'll be a win on all sides.

Because what can equality liberation be if not incomprehensibly beautiful?

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