As Northern Ireland continues to reel from the recent collapse of Stormont and consequent election, many others quietly anticipate what possible changes will come should a new power-sharing executive be formed or get pushed through by Westminster should the current stalemate persist and direct rule be reinstated, one example being marriage equality.

While MLAs voted for marriage equality by a majority in the most recent motion it was blocked by NIs largest political party, theDemocratic Unionist Party (DUP), who used a petition of concern to effectively veto the vote. Petitions of concern were incorporated into The Good Friday Agreement, which ended years of bloodshed in the province, as a mechanism to prevent disagreement if the vote would be on a cross-community basis, rather than a simple majority. This petition requires the signature of 30 executive members which previously the DUP had but with the loss of 10 seats in election 2017 comes the loss of their ability to use it if or when a new government is formed meaning the next motion put forward would almost definitely pass. If direct rule should be reinstated the DUP will no longer have a choice in the matter of marriage equality as well as the many other issues they continue to oppose, in spite of public opinions, such as reform on abortion laws.

“Living in Northern Ireland as a gay person can be a surreal experience, the civilisation of same-sex marriage has already been introduced just a few miles down the road in Southern Ireland as well as a few miles across the sea in Scotland, England and Wales, while we remain oppressed by a so called democratic party, it’s rather like being an outdated sandwich filling wedged between two slices of fresh modern bread”

However optimistic, most of the LGBT community in Northern Ireland remain reserved, fearful that hopes of achieving the equality we are wedged between will once again be dashed. Living in Northern Ireland as a gay person can be a surreal experience, the civilisation of same-sex marriage has already been introduced just a few miles down the road in Southern Ireland as well as a few miles across the sea in Scotland, England and Wales, while we remain oppressed by a so called democratic party, it’s rather like being an outdated sandwich filling wedged between two slices of fresh modern bread. On occasion I have felt like there is no place for me as a gay man in this society and considered leaving Belfast for pastures new where bigotry is not so engrained in politics, just like gay people have had to do for decades, when it occurs to me that this is not the 1960s or 70s anymore, this is 2017 and the majority of people in Northern Ireland along with politicians are in support of equality, understanding and humanity towards the LGBT so why should I leave?

There is a place in society for the LGBT community whether it’s in Belfast or Baghdad, Grozny or Moscow, there is no place for the oppression inflicted on so many people around the world purely based on their sexual orientation.

With bars, support services and the gay scene as we know it gradually disappearing it’s more important than ever that we stand together as an international community offering support to our fellow brothers and sisters. This is not just a fight for equality or for us to feel accepted by society, it’s a fight to belong and for us to accept society instead of rejecting it as being incomprehensible and lacking in compassion.

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Opinions expressed in this article may not reflect those of THEGAYUK, its management or editorial teams. If you'd like to comment or write a comment, opinion or blog piece, please click here.