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From today, same-sex marriage is now legally recognised in the North

The first marriage ceremonies should take place in February.

Same-sex marriage supporters celebrate in October when the law changed in Northern Ireland.
Same-sex marriage supporters celebrate in October when the law changed in Northern Ireland.
Image: Liam McBurney/PA Wire/PA Images

SAME-SEX MARRIAGE is now legally recognised in Northern Ireland. 

Under the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act, laws to introduce same-sex marriage had to be in force by 13 January. 

The change to the law means that same-sex couples can, from today, register to marry. 

The first ceremonies will take place in February. 

In July 2019, MPs in the House of Commons voted to legalise same-sex marriage and abortion in the North if power-sharing hadn’t been restored by 21 October. 

Stormont was only restored last weekend after months of talks between Northern Irish parties and the UK and Irish governments. 

Tweet by @Claire Sugden Source: Claire Sugden/Twitter

MLAs in the North voted on proposals to legalise same-sex marriage five times between 2012 and 2015. On four occasions, the proposals were narrowly rejected. On the fifth occasion, in November 2015, proposals were passed by the smallest possible margin – 53 votes to 52.

However, the DUP blocked any change in legislation through the controversial - and now partially reformed - Petition of Concern.

Same-sex marriage has been legal in the England, Scotland and Wales since 2014. 

In Ireland, same-sex marriage has been legal since 2015. 

Activists in Northern Ireland today celebrated the landmark change in the law. 

Patrick Corrigan from Amnesty International called it a “historic day for equality and human rights in Northern Ireland”.

Sinn Féin leader Michelle O’Neill said on Twitter that today “belongs to all of you that have campaigned relentlessly for LGBTQ+ rights for decades”.

“This is an historic day for equality,” she said. 

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood also joined the voices welcoming the change in the law. “This is something to celebrate,” he said. 

“A powerful message of hope and acceptance to members of our LGBT+ community that the love they share is as equal as any other. We have further to travel and more to do. But this is a start,” Eastwood added. 

Independent MLA and former justice minister Claire Sugden said: “We waited too long for this day. I’m sure today will be v emotional for LGBT community who now share the same rights as me. Looking forward to my first wedding invite!”

Labour MP Conor McGinn, who brought forward the amendment to the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act, told the BBC that today was a “good day for Northern Ireland”.

It was, he said, “an important day for citizens’ rights across these islands and an exciting day for same-sex couples who can now register to marry”. 

From today, opposite-sex couples will also be able to enter into civil partnerships in the North. 

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