Five years after UK’s first gay weddings, they’re still banned in Northern Ireland
As same-sex couples in England and Wales celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary, those in Northern Ireland are still waiting for their rights.
Friday (March 29) marks the fifth anniversary of the first ever same-sex weddings in England and Wales, which took place in 2014 following the passage of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013.
Same-sex weddings followed in Scotland nine months later, but couples in Northern Ireland are still without the right to marry.
Although polls show overwhelming support for equal marriage among the Northern Irish public and lawmakers, the collapse of the region’s power-sharing executive has prevented any action on the issue, while the UK government has rejected calls for direct intervention.
Northern Ireland has been left behind, say Parliamentarians
Labour MP Conor McGinn and Conservative peer Lord Hayward, who have led efforts in Parliament to extend equal marriage to Northern Ireland, urged the government to secure equal marriage for all.
The two lawmakers said: “Today marks five years since the first same-sex weddings in the UK.
“A cause for genuine celebration, it also serves as reminder of the continuing exclusion of the LGBT community in Northern Ireland.
“With Northern Ireland left out of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act, and with Scotland and the Republic of Ireland having both since legalised same-sex unions, Northern Ireland has been left well and truly behind.”
First couple to wed: Our anniversary is marred by the knowledge that others still can’t do the same
London couple David Cabreza and Peter McGraith, who made history as one of the first same-sex couples to marry five years ago this week, also spoke out about the ongoing disparity.
Peter McGraith said: “Today we celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary, but those celebrations are marred by the knowledge that in one part of the country couples just like us can’t do the same.”
He added: “It’s to this Government’s shame that they have chosen not to help deliver marriage equality in Northern Ireland, despite Stormont being suspended for so long and overwhelming support for equal marriage among the Northern Irish people.”
McGinn and Hayward said: “Stormont has not met in more than two years and with no immediate prospect of its return, the only government and only legislature able to address this issue is to be found at Westminster.
More from PinkNews
“The government must act. It should extend legislation in England and Wales to couples in Northern Ireland.
“Our union should be built on common values, equality and rights, with no-one left behind. Let’s have a wedding anniversary which all can celebrate.”
Northern Irish LGBT+ activists spoke out earlier this month after a car crash meeting with Northern Ireland secretary Karen Bradley, claiming that the UK government “doesn’t care” about the issue.
Cara McCann, Director of HereNI, told PinkNews of the meeting: “Karen Bradley simply reiterated the government’s policy of inaction on marriage equality, effectively committing it to ongoing discrimination against same-sex couples in Northern Ireland.
“Sadly, the Secretary of State, far from upholding the rights of LGBT people in Northern Ireland, seems content for us to live as second-class citizens within the UK.”