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Equality

'We've made history': First same-sex marriage takes place in Northern Ireland

“We didn’t set out to make history – we just fell in love,” Sharni Edwards said.

LAST UPDATE | 11 Feb 2020

same-sex-marriage-legislation Robyn Peoples (left), 26, and Sharni Edwards, 27. Liam McBurney Liam McBurney

A BELFAST COUPLE have tied the knot in the first same-sex marriage to take place in Northern Ireland.

Robyn Peoples, 26, and Sharni Edwards, 27, became history makers at a ceremony in a hotel in Carrickfergus, Co Antrim, this afternoon.

Their marriage came after a landmark law change in the region.

The day marks their sixth anniversary as a couple and they had booked a civil partnership ceremony at the Loughshore hotel months before Westminster MPs passed the legislation last summer.

When it became clear the first marriages could take place in Northern Ireland this week, they changed their ceremony to a wedding.

After a long and high-profile campaign for reform, same-sex marriage was eventually legalised at Westminster by MPs who stepped in and acted on the controversial issue during the power-sharing impasse at Stormont.

Ahead of the ceremony, Peoples who is a senior care worker from Belfast – said the pair were sending a message to the world that “we are equal”.

“Our love is personal, but the law which said we couldn’t marry was political,” she said.

We are delighted that with our wedding, we can now say that those days are over.
While this campaign ends with Sharni and I saying ‘I do’, it started with people saying ‘No’ to inequality. By standing together, we’ve made history.

Peoples added: “If the law sees us as equal, people growing up will have that, stereotypes will change with time. Now kids can see from a young age ‘they’re getting married, they’re equal, that’s okay’.”

same-sex-marriage-legislation The song they walked down the aisle to was This is Real by Ella Henderson. PA PA

Edwards, a waitress from Brighton who did not even know the law was different in Northern Ireland until she moved to Belfast from England, added: “We feel humbled that our wedding is a landmark moment for equal rights in Northern Ireland. We didn’t set out to make history – we just fell in love. 

We are so grateful to the thousands of people who marched for our freedoms, to the Love Equality campaign who led the way, and the politicians who voted to change the law.

“Without you, our wedding wouldn’t have been possible. We will be forever thankful.”

“We just want to show the world our love is real and it’s exactly the same as everyone else’s love out there,” Edwards said. 

Northern Ireland Justice Minister Naomi Long yesterday offered her congratulations to the couple ahead of their wedding in Antrim.

“This day has been a long time coming and is a result of many years of campaigning across these islands,” she said.

While the wedding took place in Co Antrim, at campaigners were preparing for a celebratory reception in Westminster to thank those MPs who acted on the issue.

Sara Canning, the partner of journalist Lyra McKee who was shot dead by dissident republicans in Derry last April, will attend an event organised by Amnesty International and the Love Equality campaign.

“What a wonderful moment in our history,” she said. “Of course, this historic moment is a little bitter-sweet. It had been our dream too.”

- With reporting by Michelle Hennessy. 

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