Marriage equality campaigners have welcomed an announcement by the UK Government that it will introduce law changes next week to allow same-sex couples in Northern Ireland to have religious wedding ceremonies.
Same-sex civil marriage became legal in Northern Ireland on January 13 this year, and the first wedding took place on February 11 when Sharni Edwards and Robyn Peoples married in Carrickfergus.
However, couples who wish to have a religious ceremony as part of their wedding, or who wish to convert their civil partnership to a marriage, are still not able to do so.
This tweet is not true.— Brandon Lewis (@BrandonLewis) July 9, 2020
Currently the law in Northern Ireland still prevents same-sex religious marriages.
I intend to lay regulations in Parliament next week that will enable them to take place. https://t.co/68xSPO2h0A
In a statement on Wednesday, a UK Government spokesman said: “We intend to lay regulations next week to allow for same-sex religious marriage in Northern Ireland to come into effect from September 1.
“Conversion entitlements regulations will follow as soon as possible before the end of 2020.”
Patrick Corrigan, Northern Ireland director of Amnesty International, welcomed the announcement.
He said: “This is brilliant news for all the same-sex couples of faith who have been waiting for this overdue change in the law and who can now plan their wedding in a church or other religious setting. This is an important issue for many couples in Northern Ireland, who currently have to suffer an interference with their freedom of religion by not being allowed to marry in their own church.”
Weddings in Northern Ireland can take place indoors from this Friday, the Stormont Executive has agreed, as part of the relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions.
Cara McCann, director of Here NI – an organisation representing lesbian and bisexual women in Northern Ireland, urged NI Secretary of State Brandon Lewis “to finish the job of marriage equality in Northern Ireland”.
She said: “Couples in civil partnerships should be allowed to convert to married status if they wish without further delay. This affects around 1,200 couples in Northern Ireland, including me and my partner Amanda, who entered a civil partnership in the absence of same-sex marriage and who are currently unable to marry.”