Dozens of businesses – including Coca-Cola, BT and Santander – have co-signed an open letter calling for same-sex marriage to be legalised in Northern Ireland.
All of the companies who’ve signed the “#Businesses4Equality” letter have offices in NI, and are calling for their LGBT+ employees who work there to “have equal access to the same rights, entitlements, responsibilities and freedoms enjoyed elsewhere in the United Kingdom”.
“As employers we encourage and welcome diversity and inclusion in our workforce and recognise the rights of our lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender employees to be themselves and to live and work, free from discrimination, prejudice or exclusion,” the letter reads.
“Equality contributes to an environment of creativity and excellence where our LGBT staff feel able to bring their whole selves to the workplace and where their relationships will be respected.”
Petre Sandru, country manager at Coca-Cola Ireland, said: “At Coca-Cola, we know that creating an environment where everyone can reach their full potential, regardless of gender, age, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion, ability or socio-economic background, is key to driving businesses forward.
“We also believe that everyone has the right to be themselves both outside and inside the workplace, which is why we support this important initiative.”
Other companies backing the campaign include IBM, Bank of Ireland and accountancy firm Deloitte.
Praising the letter, John O’Doherty, director of The Rainbow Project and member of the Love Equality consortium, said:“While many of the arguments for equal marriage are based on rights and equality, there is also an important economic argument.
“Businesses and employers across Northern Ireland are in competition for excellence with other employers across the UK and Ireland.
“There is a sound economic argument for marriage equality. Equality, diversity and inclusion contribute to a happy and productive workforce and can help in attracting global talent to Northern Ireland.
“However, without full legal recognition of same-sex marriages retaining and attracting talent can be difficult.”
O’Doherty said Northern Ireland was suffering from a “brain drain”, with talented workers seeking employment elsewhere.
“It is important that we reflect upon all of its causes, not least of all the fact that Northern Ireland remains the only part of these Islands not to recognise equal marriage,” he added.
“Three-quarters of people here want to see marriage equality introduced. There has been no devolved government in Northern Ireland for almost eighteen months.
“Responsibility for marriage equality legislation now sits squarely with the UK Government. How much longer do Ministers think LGBT+ people in Northern Ireland should have to wait to be treated equally?”
Civil partnerships have been available for same-sex NI couples since 2005 but – despite five attempts to introduce it in the Northern Ireland Assembly – same-sex marriage is not permitted.
In 2015, the Northern Ireland Assembly voted in favour of allowing same-sex marriage, but the move was blocked by the DUP.