By Rebecca Black, Press Association
Barnardo’s has become the first children’s charity in Northern Ireland to publicly voice support for the recognition of same-sex marriage.
It made the announcement on Wednesday to coincide with Belfast Pride’s Coming Out for Change campaign, and just days before the city’s Pride parade.
Northern Ireland is the only region of the UK where same-sex marriages are not recognised.
With devolved government at Stormont remaining in suspension since January 2017, earlier this year Labour MP Conor McGinn tried unsuccessfully to force the policy through Westminster via a private members bill.
In 2015 a majority of MLAs backed the introduction of same-sex marriage the last time it was debated at Stormont, but the DUP blocked it using a petition of concern.
Barnardo’s has in the past supported marriage equality campaigns in other areas of the UK and in the Republic of Ireland.
The director of Barnardo’s NI Lynda Wilson said they hope to see marriage equality extended to Northern Ireland.
“We work with many children, young people and families who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender,” she said.
“Many of our workforce and volunteers as a reflection of society also identify as LGBTQ and we do not discriminate.
“We are committed to providing equality of opportunity and believe marriage equality is an extension of that.
“As a children’s charity we want the children and families we support as well as our staff and volunteers to know that we will stand up for them and support them.
“We believe marriage equality should be a right for all regardless of sexual orientation.”
Ms Wilson said the position reflects the core beliefs of the charity.
“Our support for same sex couples to marry reflects Barnardo’s core belief that every person is different but equal and everyone’s unique worth should be recognised,” she said.
“We work and live in a diverse and multi-cultural environment which Barnardo’s embraces and promotes.
“Marriage equality legislation has been passed in the rest of the UK, the Republic of Ireland, across western Europe, the USA and Australia and we hope that Northern Ireland will soon follow, giving same sex couples the right and freedom to marry if they so wish.”