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Dublin: 13°C Thursday 23 September 2021

Northern Ireland's ban on same-sex marriage does NOT breach human rights

A Belfast court made the ruling this afternoon.

Civil partners Grainne Close and Shannon Sickles outside the High Court in Belfast.
Civil partners Grainne Close and Shannon Sickles outside the High Court in Belfast.
Image: : Brian Lawless/PA Images

A JUDGE IN Belfast has ruled that the rights of two same-sex couples have not been violated because they are not allowed to marry in Northern Ireland.

The judgment was delivered today after a number of challenges were taken to Northern Ireland’s laws which do not allow same-sex couples to marry.

In his judgement this afternoon, Justice O’Hara stated that it is not against international human rights legislation to restrict marriage to opposite-sex couples.

Civil partnerships have been the law in Northern Ireland since 2004 and today’s judgement stated that the law on marriage is in the power of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Grainne Close and Shannon Sickles entered into a civil partnership in Northern Ireland in 2005 and they were party to the case that led to today’s proceedings.

In his judgement, Justice O’Hara acknowledged the “frustration” of those in favour of same-sex marriage about the current legal situation in the six counties.

In 2015, a majority of the NI Assembly voted in favour of same-sex marriage but the DUP blocked it by employing a petition stating that it required cross-community support.

“To the frustration of supporters of same-sex marriage the Assembly has not yet passed into law any measure to recognise and introduce same-sex marriage,” the judge said.

Their frustration is increased by the fact that the Assembly has voted by a majority in favour of same-sex marriage, but by reason of special voting arrangements which reflect the troubled past of this State, that majority has not been sufficient to give the vote effect in law.

“It is not at all difficult to understand how gay men and lesbians who have suffered discrimination, rejection and exclusion feel so strongly about the maintenance in Northern Ireland of the barrier to same-sex marriage. However, the judgment which I have to reach is not based on social policy but on the law,” the judge added.

The judgement quoted the European Court of Human Rights in saying that while parliaments are free to provide for same-sex marriage they are not obliged to do so.

Love Equality, which campaigns for the extension of marriage to same-sex couples in Northern Ireland, said the group is “hugely disappointed” by today’s ruling.

“The current laws in Northern Ireland preventing this are discriminatory and belong in the past. It is unacceptable that same-sex couples can marry in the rest of the UK, but not in Northern Ireland,” Love Equality’s Gráinne Teggart said this afternoon.

Read: Varadkar says it’s ‘only a matter of time’ before North legalises same-sex marriage >

Read: Malta votes to legalise same-sex marriage >

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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