Last of British Isles, Northern Ireland, legalized same-sex marriages

Michael Rosenbaum, Contributing Writer

As of January 13, same-sex marriage is legal in Northern Ireland. This comes six years after England, Scotland and Wales legalized same-sex marriage in 2014, a move that was widely supported at the time.

However, the Northern Irish Parliament, the Stormont failed to pass the measure back in 2015.

Despite receiving a simple majority with the 2015 motion, the Stormont could not pass the motion since it was vetoed using a ‘Petition of Concern.’

The petition was filed by the Democratic Unionist Party which is a bloc within the Stormont, the BBC reported. The petition is designed to prevent the passage of bills that would raise sectarian tensions or target minority groups within Northern Ireland. As such, Northern Ireland was the only place in the United Kingdom where same-sex marriage was not legally recognized.

Since the veto in 2015, the motion was not heard in the Stormont again. Following that, Stormont was suspended in 2017 after a failure to share power between London and Dublin due to an unrelated dispute.

Since then, advocates of legalization had hoped that the British Parliament would soon pass the law for Northern Ireland as part of their duties administering the region.

In 2019, the British Parliament passed a motion that decreed that they would intervene and legalize same-sex marriage and abortion in Northern Ireland if Stormont was not reestablished by a certain date.

According to NPR, Stormont was reestablished, but not until after the set deadline.

As such, the British Parliament legalized same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland, a move that has now been ratified by the Stormont.

New marriages can be certified and that Northern Ireland now recognizes same-sex marriages that were officiated outside of Northern Ireland. However, the law does not yet allow for civil partnerships to be converted into marriages, BBC reported.

Ministers are not required to officiate same-sex couples, the Belfast Telegraph reported.

The first planned weddngs are in February, during the week of Valentine’s day, the BBC reported.

Heterosexual couples may now also enter civil partnerships instead of marriages. Additionally, later this year church leaders with be meeting with lawmakers to decide the role of the church in both civil partnerships and same-sex marriages.