SDLP Leader and Foyle Assembly candidate Colum Eastwood has labelled gay marriage as ‘the civil rights fight of today’ – and has pledged that his party will commit to introducing new legislation on equal marriage if it is in the next Executive.

Mr Eastwood has said there is overwhelming support in Derry and throughout the North for the change, and has slammed the DUP for ducking this important issue. However, he has also promised that any future legislation would enshrine robust protections for churches and faith communities.

The SDLP Leader highlighted that In June 2016, a Love Equality/ Ipsos-Mori poll found that 70% of people polled believe gay couples should be able to marry each other. However, the DUP blocked the most recent attempt to introduce equal marriage – despite it winning a majority vote in Stormont.

Mr Eastwood said: “Let us be clear that the fight for equal marriage is the civil rights fight of today. For too long gay men and women have been treated like second-class citizens, locked out of the precious institution of marriage. What’s more, the level of intolerance and bigotry indulged in by leading figures in Government puts Northern Ireland to shame.

“I’m serving notice to the DUP that there is no place for their intolerance in today’s world. They claim to be protecting freedom of religion – but the Assembly has always pledged to enshrine robust protections for churches and faith communities in any future legislation on equal marriage and they will continue to have the same freedoms as before.

“The SDLP is a party founded on the principle of equality for all and tackling injustice and prejudice. That’s why we are committed to introducing new legislation to finally deliver marriage equality.

“We simply won’t tolerate anymore the DUP playing politics with people’s lives and hopes. If the SDLP forms part of the next Government, we will urgently deliver marriage equality legislation to ensure that all citizens have the same rights before the law.

“This step is long overdue – and our party will prevent the issue being ducked yet again. A vote for the SDLP on 2nd March is a vote to finally make change happen.”

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