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Weddings

Same-sex couples are being ‘blocked’ from marrying in Northern Ireland and these trailblazing lesbians say the government is to blame

Emma Powys Maurice July 9, 2020
religious same-sex marriages Robyn Peoples and Sharni Edwards kiss each other after they became Northern Ireland's first legally married same sex couple on February 11, 2020 in Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland.

Robyn Peoples and Sharni Edwards kiss each other after they became Northern Ireland's first legally married same sex couple on February 11, 2020. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty)

The first lesbian couple to marry in Northern Ireland say the government is failing to deliver full marriage equality because of a delay in regulations.

It is now exactly a year since the historic House of Commons vote to extend same-sex marriage to Northern Ireland, but those who want to convert existing civil partnerships to marriages are still unable to do so.

Sharni and Robyn Edwards-Peoples criticised the secretary of state Brandon Lewis for not laying the crucial regulations and issued a call for urgent action.

“As we emerge from lockdown, and with weddings now permitted, there will be a lot of couples hoping to have long-awaited wedding days. But same-sex couples like us, who want to have a religious ceremony or who want to convert their civil partnership, can’t even plan a date for their weddings at the moment,” Robyn told Amnesty International.

“We loved having our big day back in February surrounded by the people we love,” Sharni added. “It was a dream day for us and we want everyone to have the same chance to enjoy that feeling.

“But, by not laying the necessary regulations at parliament, the secretary of state is stopping many couples’ from being able to plan their own big day.”

Same-sex civil marriage became legal in Northern Ireland on 13 January this year, with Sharni and Robyn becoming the first couple to wed on 11 February.

Robyn Peoples and Sharni Edwards kiss after they became the first legally married same sex couple in Northern Ireland on February 11, 2020 in Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland.
Robyn Peoples and Sharni Edwards on their wedding day in Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland. (Charles McQuillan/Getty)

As the devolved government relaxes coronavirus restrictions in the region it has announced that indoor weddings can take place from July 10 – but as many as 1,200 same-sex couples joined by civil partnerships won’t be able to celebrate.

Plans should have allowed for them to convert this to marriage through a simple administrative process, said Patrick Corrigan, Northern Ireland director of Amnesty International.

“A year on from the historic vote by the House of Commons to extend same-sex marriage to Northern Ireland, the government needs to stop this inexplicable hold-up and end the uncertainty and inequality for hundreds of couples,” he said.

“We urge the Secretary of State to use the remaining two weeks before summer recess to lay the necessary regulations in parliament.”

A UK Government spokesperson told the Belfast Telegraph that “conversion entitlements regulations will follow as soon as possible before the end of 2020”.

 

More: amnesty international, brandon lewis, civil partnership, marriage equality, Northern Ireland, same sex marriage, Sharni and Robyn Edwards-Peoples, stormont

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