Latest equality landmark in Northern Ireland as first same-sex couple marry in religious ceremony

The first same-sex religious wedding in Northern Ireland’s history took place on Saturday afternoon, December 12 in Larne, County Antrim.

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Image: Loreen Katherine Photography.

Saturday, December 12, saw Northern Ireland’s first same-sex religious wedding ceremony, which was made possible as a result of a recent change to marriage equality legislation which came into effect earlier this year.

Chris McNaghten and Jon Swan married at Hillmount House in Larne, in a wedding ceremony officiated by Steve Ames, a religious minister with the Harbour Faith Community.

Same-sex couples in Northern Ireland are now able to get married in a religious ceremony where the church or other faith group wishes to offer such weddings, although no church is compelled to offer same-sex weddings. Similar arrangements are already in place in the rest of the UK and Ireland.

Last Monday, December 7, the first same-sex couples with existing civil partnerships were able to convert to full marriage status in town halls across Northern Ireland. The first same-sex civil marriage wedding took place in February this year, when Sharni Edwards and Robyn Peoples married in Carrickfergus.

It was third time lucky for international strongman competitor Chris McNaghten and his partner Jon Swan, who have twice been forced to cancel wedding plans due to coronavirus regulations.

Today, they were finally able to be joined by close friends and family, following a relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions in Northern Ireland.

Chris McNaghten said:

“We are so glad to be finally having our day together after a long wait and several attempts this year.

“It’s amazing to see Northern Ireland now in line with the rest of the UK and Ireland regards equality for the LGBTQ+ community. My praise goes out to all those involved in this battle for equality over the years.

“Jon and I wouldn’t see ourselves as having strong religious beliefs. However, our family minister is someone with whom we are close and trust, and some of our family take comfort from a religious ceremony.

“For most people, your wedding day is known as being the best day of your life. For us, it’s a dream come true that, growing up, we thought we would never have.”

The well-known Larne couple previously starred in MTV series ‘True Love or True Lies?’. Last year Chris McNaghten organised the first ever Larne Pride.

Patrick Corrigan, Northern Ireland director of Amnesty International, one of the leaders of the Love Equality campaign, said:

“This has been a momentous week for equal marriage in Northern Ireland. With Chris and Jon’s wedding today, following the first civil partnership conversions on Monday, we now reach the end of the long campaign for marriage equality here.

“For those couples who want a church wedding or another religious dimension to their wedding ceremony, the recent law change is hugely significant. As part of our campaign, we fought not just for the freedom to marry, but also for freedom of religion and that is what we have witnessed today with the Harbour Faith Community providing the Christian religious context. We thank them for providing a supportive church community for LGBT+ people of faith.”

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