Every year you hear the usual comments: “Why do they have to go out and wave their flags?”
In Northern Ireland people love their flags and their parades. Pride stands out. Yesterday had the most cheerful and positive atmosphere in Belfast that I have seen in quite a quite.
Maybe it wasn’t necessarily everyone’s cup of tea – which is fine – but it still attracted a vast crowd of diverse individuals to parade together for a greater, common good.
Any two people can marry in Northern Ireland provided:
1. Both are at least 16 years of age on the day of their marriage – anyone under 18 will need permission from their parent or guardian, or if appropriate a court order to allow the marriage to go ahead;
2. They are not related to each other in a way which would prevent their marrying;
3. They are unmarried (any previous marriage must have been ended by divorce, death or annulment);
4. They are not of the same sex;
5. They are capable of understanding the nature of a marriage ceremony and of agreeing to marriage.
The Pride Festival and the parade are demanding change to the law. Why on earth can’t two people marry regardless of their sex or their gender identity? It might be against your personal values or beliefs, but if you have a right to be in love and get married, why do you need to purposely prevent others from doing the same?
And yet the whole event wasn’t just about equal marriage. It was so much more.
The parade was a perfect example of people coming together to be treated as equal, for everyone to have equal rights in society and to feel part of it.
Equality is not only about marriage; it is about wider acceptance of differences; it is about everyone having a choice; it is about everyone having the same rights in the society without exception.
There will always be differences between people, different opinions, and different backgrounds. As part of the social identity process we show solidarity towards people within ‘our group’ and discrimination towards those in the ‘out-group’.
This is usually to simplify our understanding of the world around us than anything else. There are, and always will be, disagreements even within the same group – but we fundamentally still accept others within our group in spite of these disagreements.
Are we capable of expanding what we think of as ‘our group’ to include everyone who lives in Northern Ireland?