Amnesty International has welcomed a change in the law which, for the first time from today, September 1, allows same-sex couples in Northern Ireland to register for religious weddings.
From today, couples will be able to register to marry in a religious setting, and religious bodies can choose to opt in to provide same-sex weddings. With a statutory 28-day waiting period, the earliest date for a same-sex religious wedding will be September 29.
Amnesty International has welcomed the move, which came after a long campaign by equality activists in Northern Ireland. It is now urging the UK Government to make marriage fully equal in the region by allowing same-sex couples with an existing civil partnership to be able to convert their partnership into a marriage. There are 1,200 same-sex couples in Northern Ireland who currently have civil partnerships.
Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty International’s Northern Ireland Director and part of the Love Equality coalition, said:
“Today is a milestone for equality in Northern Ireland. After years of campaigning, same-sex couples of faith can finally register to marry in a church or other religious setting.
“In line with our campaign, we are pleased that the law will protect religious freedom, and that churches will neither be compelled nor prevented from offering wedding ceremonies to same-sex couples.
“This is an important issue for many couples in Northern Ireland, who have previously been prevented by law from marrying in their own church.
“We now urge the Government to finish the job of marriage equality in Northern Ireland, by allowing couples in civil partnerships to convert to married status if they so wish.”
Today is a milestone for equality as same-sex religious weddings become a reality in NI. 💒
Thank you to everyone for your support for the campaign. Now it’s time for @NIOgov to finish the job with civil partnership conversion. 🏳️🌈 pic.twitter.com/MA0DEkyIMk
— Love Equality NI (@Love_EqualityNI) September 1, 2020
The Rev Chris Hudson, minister of All Souls Church in Belfast – a member of the Non-Subscribing Church of Ireland – also welcomed the law change.
He said: “This is great news for couples who wish to celebrate their marriage in church, embraced by family, friends and the love of God.
“I have already been speaking to a number of couples who have been waiting for this day so they can finally have the church wedding that they have longed for.”
Same-sex civil marriage became legal in Northern Ireland on January 13 this year. The first wedding took place on February 11, when Sharni Edwards and Robyn Peoples married in Carrickfergus.
Under Government plans, same-sex couples in Northern Ireland will be able to get married in a religious ceremony where the church or other faith group wishes to offer such weddings, but no church would be compelled to offer same-sex weddings. Similar arrangements are already in place in the rest of the UK and Ireland.
Plans should allow same-sex couples with an existing civil partnership to convert this to marriage through a simple administrative process. There are 1,200 same-sex couples in Northern Ireland who currently have civil partnerships.
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