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The LGBT movement in the United Kingdom has had considerable success in its campaign for equal rights and legal protection, in common with LGBT movements across the world. Early organization took place in secret in the late 19th and early 20th centuries before the heyday of LGBT political campaigning in the 1960s and 1970s. Key organizations in the United Kingdom included the Campaign for Homosexual Equality, the Gay Liberation Front, the Scottish Minorities Group, the Northern Ireland Gay Rights Association, and the lesbian groups Kenric and Sappho. In the 1980s, the LGBT movement responded to the twin threats of HIV/AIDS and the Section 28 (or 2A in Scotland) legislation through a renewed campaigning vigor. The 21st century ushered in a period of celebration and commemoration through the advent of Pride and the establishment of heritage projects and academic research, although significant political and policy challenges remain, particularly for trans* people and for immigrants and asylum seekers.

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Contrary to popular belief, Northern Irish politics is not an entirely religious affair. The widespread and longstanding use of the labels “Catholic” and “Protestant” to denote political allegiance undoubtedly contributes to such an impression. The relationship between religion and politics in Northern Ireland is, however, more complex than these convenient labels suggest. Indeed the question of whether and to what extent religion possesses any political significance in the region has generated considerable academic debate. Organizationally, there is a clear separation of church and party in Northern Ireland. The main political parties have eschewed formal ties with churches, and faith leaders have largely confined themselves to involvement in “small p” politics. The one exception to this general rule has been the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). Its close ties with the Free Presbyterian Church has long rendered it a unique case in the British and Irish context. The historical relationship between the main unionist parties and the Orange Order, a quasi-religious organization, further blurs the lines between religion and party politics in Northern Ireland. Since the signing of the Belfast or Good Friday Agreement in 1998, alternative or non-ethnonational political issues have become increasingly salient in Northern Ireland. More specifically, touchstone moral issues have taken center stage on several occasions. Abortion rights and marriage equality, for example, remain high on the contemporary political agenda, with clear party differences observable on each issue. The staunch moral conservatism of the DUP, derived from its commitment to a fundamentalist Protestant doctrine, again sets it apart. The continued exceptionalism of Northern Ireland on these issues, compared with the rest of the United Kingdom and, increasingly, Ireland, serves to reinforce the importance of understanding the role religion plays in shaping party policy programs and party competition in the region.