Northern Ireland gay marriage bid rejected

Family Law, Northern Ireland

A High Court Judge has rejected two challenges to Northern Ireland’s ban on gay marriage.

Mr Justice O’Hara said social policy in the Province should be decided by the Stormont Assembly rather than the Courts. He had been asked to rule on two cases against the prohibition which were heard at the same time because of how similar they were.

One case concerned an unnamed same sex couple who married in England and wanted their marriage to be recognised in Northern Ireland rather than have it treated as a civil partnership. The other was a joint application by the first gay and lesbian couples to enter civil partnerships in the UK. They were challenging Stormont’s refusal to legalise same sex marriage.

The Judge explained that it was “not at all difficult to understand how gay men and lesbians who have suffered discrimination, rejection and exclusion feel so strongly” about the continuing barrier to marriage equality, but his decision was “not based on social policy but on the law”.

Northern Ireland is the only part of the British Isles that still has no marriage rights for same sex couples despite being the first to introduce civil partnerships 12 years ago. Shannon Sickles and Grainne Close were the first couple to take advantage of this. They held the first ceremony of its kind in the UK at Belfast City Hall in December 2005.

Speaking to the media yesterday, Close said they were “devastated” by the decision as marriage equality was “a personal matter” for them. She added:

“We have families and our children are being treated differently because of today’s result.”

Efforts to introduce same sex marriage have been unsuccessful each time as a result of the socially conservative Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) in the Northern Ireland Assembly. Each time the issue has come to a vote the DUP has used a veto, called a ‘petition of concern’, to prevent the proposals becoming law.

Last month, Prime Minister Theresa May wrote an article for Pink News in which she insisted that the LGBT community of Northern Ireland “should have the same rights as people across the rest of the UK”.

Photo of the Royal Courts of Justice in Belfast by William Murphy via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence.

Stowe Family Law Web Team

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Andrew - August 18, 2017 at 4:52pm

I would like to see a change: but the DUP is the most popular party in NI and democracy sometimes involves being in a minority and accepting the decision of the majority, doesn’t it?

Andrew - August 22, 2017 at 12:41pm

Thanks. I will just have to wait in patience for the full text.

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