Campaigners have welcomed a new opinion poll which shows that most people across County Antrim support equal marriage rights for same-sex couples in Northern Ireland.
The opinion poll, conducted by Ipsos MORI, one of the world’s biggest polling companies, shows that 57% of adults living in County Antrim agree that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry.
Only 38% of people polled in County Antrim disagreed with the idea, with the remaining five per cent declaring they did not know, indicating a ratio of 2:1 support for same-sex marriage rights across County Antrim.
The Ipsos MORI polling was undertaken to establish a deeper understanding of public attitudes towards same sex marriage across each of the counties in Northern Ireland.
Overall, the survey found that 68% of adults in Northern Ireland think that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry, a figure even higher than the 62.1% figure who voted Yes in the recent marriage equality referendum in the Republic of Ireland.
The publication of the poll results follows a marriage equality rally in Belfast in June where an estimated 20,000 people marched to demand a change in the law to allow same-sex marriage in the region.
The Northern Ireland Assembly has voted against marriage equality on four occasions since 2012.
Campaigners say the figures show that Northern Ireland’s politicians are now out of step with ordinary people on the issue and are calling on the Northern Ireland Executive to bring forward marriage equality legislation without further delay.
Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty International’s Northern Ireland programme director, said: “We welcome the positive support from the people of County Antrim for civil marriage rights for same-sex couples. The people have spoken and it’s clear they don’t want Northern Ireland to be left behind on marriage equality.
“Northern Ireland’s politicians are badly out of step with the people on marriage equality and we would encourage those MLAs who have so far voted against or abstained on the issue, to think again and to better represent the views of voters across Antrim.
“Following the introduction of marriage equality in the rest of the UK and the overwhelming Yes vote in the Republic, it’s high time Northern Ireland said a big ‘we do too’ to equality.”
John O’Doherty, the Rainbow Project director, said: “Northern Ireland is increasingly isolated in western Europe as a region where marriage equality is not a reality. This is a shameful injustice which cannot be allowed to continue. Politicians can’t simply ignore figures like those in the Ipsos MORI poll. The tide of public opinion has shifted decisively and there can only be one outcome.
“We will continue our campaign to ensure that equality becomes a reality for all the people of these islands”
Clare Moore of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions also welcomed the poll findings:
“Through this poll, we see clearly that the people of County Antrim, like people all across Northern Ireland, now back legislation for marriage equality.
“Everyone should have equal rights and opportunities including the right to marry. It is a simple matter of equality. People have a right to expect that their politicians will promote and defend equality for all.”