Current Affairs

Five years after UK’s first gay weddings, they’re still banned in Northern Ireland

Nick Duffy March 29, 2019
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Supporters of same sex marriage carry banners and shout slogans as they gather on a street in Sydney on August 6, 2017. Australia's Liberal Party, the senior partner in the ruling coalition, is set to debate its same-sex marriage policy on August 7 amid tensions between conservative and moderate elements over whether to dump a policy of holding a plebiscite on the issue in favour of other options, despite strong popular support for marriage equality. / AFP PHOTO / PETER PARKS (Photo credit should read PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images)

Supporters of same-sex marriage campaign in Australia (Getty)

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.”

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 29: Gay couple Peter McGraith and David Cabreza leave Islington Town Hall after being married shortly after midnight in one of the UK's first same-sex weddings on March 29, 2014 in London, England. Same sex couples have been able to enter into 'civil partnerships' since 2005, however following a change in the law in July 2013 gay couples are now eligible to marry in England and Wales. A number of gay couples have arranged for their wedding ceremonies to take place shortly after midnight on March 29, 2014 to become some of the first to take advantage of the new law. Parliament's decision to grant same sex couples an equal right to marriage has been met with opposition from religious groups. Gay marriage is currently being debated in Scotland, however the Northern Ireland administration has no plans to make it law. (Photo by Rob Stothard/Getty Images)
Gay couple Peter McGraith and David Cabreza leave Islington Town Hall after being married shortly after midnight in one of the UK’s first same-sex weddings on March 29, 2014 in London, England. (Getty)

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.

“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.”

More: anniversary, Gay, LGBT, Northern Ireland, Northern Ireland, Same-sex wedding, Weddings

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