As marriage equality comes within reach, Northern Ireland celebrates revolution and a brighter future for its LGBTQ+ community
2019’s Pride parade in Belfast drew in thousands – a vibrant, song-filled crowd where drag queens mingle with grannies and their terriers, mums and their gay sons march arm-in-arm, couples and groups of pals dance along with rainbow flags on their cheeks, on their clothes, and on their protest banners. It’s a particularly poignant march this year, as it could be the last Pride before same-sex marriage becomes law in Northern Ireland – a historic, progressive move many never thought possible in tempestuous times.
For now, Northern Ireland is the only region in the British Isles, Ireland, and Crown dependencies without marriage equality. But social evolution is within reach – in a recent, revolutionary vote, British MPs voted overwhelmingly to extend same-sex marriage and abortion access to NI. If Stormont (Northern Ireland’s parliament) does not reestablish itself before October 21, the UK will commit to liberalising the laws. If the deadline passes, a new progressive law for marriage equality will have to come into force by January 2020. Though polls over the years have shown the Northern Irish people to be in favour of progression, the country has been bound by the whims of the Evangelical-leaning DUP, its largest party.
“Future generations in Northern Ireland will no longer have to suffer inequality in the way so many have had to endure in the past,” Amnesty International’s Patrick Corrigan said of the landmark legislation.
Pride this year has been tinged by the fervent spirit of a generation in anger and pain, following the tragic death of journalist Lyra McKee. McKee, a brilliant journalist and reporter who keenly captured the issues of the ‘ceasefire babies’, was killed by dissident Republican gunfire in Derry in April. Reading her devastating, brave “letter to my 14-year-old self”, her writing highlights a message of love, acceptance, and solidarity for a future NI and its LGBTQ community. The recent moves towards change in the law reflect a shift that McKee should have been alive to see and celebrate.
Captured in Eilish McCormick’s kinetic range of photography, there’s a spectrum of joy and hope for a brighter future. For the thousands out celebrating, up and down Belfast’s Royal Avenue, on the stage of gay bar Maverick, or in the depths of a dockside queer rave, this Pride is a party, a protest, and prophecy.