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It’s official: Northern Ireland has finally signed same-sex marriage into law

Emma Powys Maurice December 20, 2019
Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland's secretary of state Julian Smith (Twitter/@JulianSmithUK)

Northern Ireland’s secretary of state Julian Smith has officially signed a regulation to introduce same-sex marriage by Valentine’s Day 2020.

Until October, the province was the only place in the British Isles (alongside the island of Sark) that had not legalised equal marriage.

In July Westminster MPs voted overwhelmingly in favour of changing the law if the devolved government, Stormont, had not been re-established. A last-ditch attempt to do so was led by Arlene Foster’s DUP party on the eve of the deadline, but it was ultimately unsuccessful.

LGBT+ advocates and government officials have spent the last few months working to change legislative terminology so that same-sex couples are legally afforded all the same rights as heterosexual couples from the moment they marry.

The terms ‘husband and wife’ and ‘man and woman’ had to be corrected across the legal code to ensure the newly weds would have equal access to everything from pensions and benefits to healthcare.

Now this is complete, Smith signed the regulations and officially passed same-sex marriage into law. On Thursday, December 19, he tweeted a picture of himself with the historic document.

“A very good end to the day – signing the new same sex marriage regulations for Northern Ireland,” he wrote. “Same sex couples in NI will now be able to marry by Valentine’s Day 2020.”

Although it may seem romantic, the reason for selecting Valentine’s Day as the date of the first weddings is actually more pragmatic.

Couples will have to wait 28 days after they submit their notice of intention to marry before they can have a ceremony, which makes February 14 the earliest point that they can be wed.

 

More: Arlene Foster, DUP, Northern Ireland, same sex marriage

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