A legal challenge to Northern Ireland’s ban on same-sex marriage has been filed in Belfast’s High Court.

Northern Ireland is currently the only part of the UK to not permit or recognise same-sex marriage, after it was legalised in England, Wales and Scotland last year.

The country’s governing Democratic Unionist Party remains strongly opposed to gay rights, and has blocked all attempts to bring in marriage equality.

Last Thursday a same-sex couple who married in England but live in Northern Ireland filed a legal challenge – backed by the Rainbow Project – which alleges the failure to recognise their marriage in the country infringes on their rights.

An anonymity order has already been granted – which protects the identity of the couple at the heart of the lawsuit.

Rainbow Project director John O’Doherty said: “We are very happy to support this important legal challenge.

“While same-sex marriage legislation in Westminster had many positive aspects, we believe that its provision forbidding the recognition of lawful same-sex marriages in Northern Ireland is irrational, contrary to principles of British constitutional law and incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.

“We are resolute in our assertion that no-one can be married in one part of the United Kingdom and then not married in another.

“Once a couple is lawfully married in the UK, we contend that their relationship cannot be reclassified as a civil partnership without their consent which is exactly what the law currently does.

“The legislation says to lawfully married people that they are no longer married. This is unconscionable and cannot be permitted to continue.

“Marriage is a fundamental human right, which is now recognised in the UK as including same-sex couples.

“We will work to ensure that this right is realised for everyone in the United Kingdom and we are confident that Marriage Equality will be achieved in Northern Ireland.”