Northern Ireland appeals court hears equal marriage challenge
The Court of Appeal is today hearing a challenge to secure recognition of equal marriage in Northern Ireland.
Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK which does not allow gay couples to marry, and same-sex weddings from other parts of the UK are only recognised as civil partnerships in a region.
An appeal was heard today after Belfast’s High Court ruled against marriage rights in the region.
The case, known as Petition X, was brought by an anonymous Northern Irish couple who entered a same-sex marriage in England.
Their marriage is not recognised in Northern Ireland, but the couple argued this violated their human rights.
In the High Court last year, Mr Justice O’Hara rejected the challenge.
The judge held that there were no grounds to conclude under case law from the European Court of Human Rights that the couple’s rights have been violated by the refusal to recognise their marriage as a marriage.
The judge explained: “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.”
Though a majority of Northern Ireland Assembly Members voted for equal marriage in 2015, the ultra-conservative Democratic Unionist Party employed ‘petitions of concern’ to veto all legislation on the issue.
The DUP has vowed to continue employing its veto. To further hinder progress, the Assembly is not currently functioning due to the collapse of power-sharing.
The Judge acknowledged: “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.
“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.”
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In a statement at the time issued by their solicitor, Ciaran Moynagh, the couple in the case said: “We want our vows to be recognised in Northern Ireland because the traditional values associated with marriage are important to us.
“Of course, we are disappointed by today’s ruling.
“What it shows is that more work needs to be done to explain a truth that, to us, is self-evident; the love two men or two women share is never a threat to society – in fact the world could do with a little more love today.
“Today we are calling on the mums, dads, siblings and friends of LGBT+ people to no longer remain on the side lines. Speak, write or tweet to our political leaders reminding them that the majority of people in Northern Ireland support same sex marriage”
“Our fight to have our love recognised continues and we will discuss our options with our legal team.”