Northern Ireland

Lyra McKee's partner says NI marriage inequality 'unacceptable'

Sara Canning (front centre), partner of murdered journalist Lyra McKee, marching with protesters through Belfast city centre demanding same sex marriage in Northern Ireland. Image copyright PA
Image caption Same-sex marriage is legal in the rest of the UK and in the Republic of Ireland

The partner of murdered journalist Lyra McKee has demanded equal marriage rights for same-sex couples in Northern Ireland.

Sara Canning, who was addressing a rally of thousands in Belfast, said the current situation was "not acceptable."

She told the crowds gathered outside City Hall that a law change would be a "win" for everyone in Northern Ireland.

Ms McKee, 29, was shot on 18 April while observing rioting in Londonderry.

The New IRA said its members carried out the killing.

Her murder led to an outpouring of grief and calls for politicians in Northern Ireland to return to powersharing, two-and-a-half years after the government of the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Féin collapsed.

A new talks process began at Stormont on Tuesday.

Image copyright AFP/GETTY
Image caption Lyra McKee was observing rioting in Londonderry's Creggan estate when she was shot dead last month by dissident republicans

Saturday's rally was organised by the Love Equality campaign - an umbrella group made up of organisations that support a law change.

Ms Canning questioned why same-sex couple were treated differently in Northern Ireland - same-sex marriage is legal in the rest of the UK and in the Republic of Ireland.

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

"Equal marriage is not a green or orange issue, a demand of just one side or the other and it shouldn't be a political football."

Ms Canning said she had dreamed of marrying the woman she loved and had shared her dream with Lyra before it was "snatched away".

Image caption Sara Canning said equal marriage was not a "green or orange issue"

Ms Canning has already challenged the prime minister to legislate for same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland.

She said she spoke to Theresa May at Ms McKee's funeral, asking her to change the laws at Westminster if local politicians failed to act.

On Saturday, she reiterated this challenge and said Westminster must legislate on the issue in the continued absence of local government.

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Media captionBBC News NI looks at the story of the same-sex marriage debate in Northern Ireland so far

Equal marriage is currently one of the main sticking points in Stormont's continuing political crisis.

During a vote in November 2015, Northern Ireland's assembly members supported same-sex marriage by a slim majority of 53 votes to 52.

However, the motion was blocked by the DUP using a measure known as a petition of concern.

The DUP remains firmly opposed to any redefinition of the law, insisting marriage should be between a man and a woman.

It has resisted Sinn Féin's calls for a change in the law.

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