The first same-sex couple to marry in Northern Ireland have criticised the Secretary of State for delays in implementing regulations to assist religious same-sex marriage and conversion of civil partnerships.
On October 22 2019, the ban on same-sex marriage and abortion rights was lifted across Northern Ireland. Following this groundbreaking moment, Sharni and Robyn Edwards-Peoples made history in February as the first same-sex couple to wed under the new laws.
Marking the one-year anniversary from when the House of Commons voted to extend same-sex marriage to Northern Ireland, Sharni and Robyn Edwards-Peoples spoke out against a lack of action towards guaranteeing full legislative equality. They are calling on the Secretary of State, Brandon Lewis MP, to introduce new regulations into Parliament to ensure religious ceremonies and conversion of civil partnerships.
In an Amnesty International UK press release, Robyn Edwards-Peoples, said, “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.”
Under current government plans, same-sex couples in Northern Ireland are able to get married in a religious ceremony, however the church can refuse to perform this wedding. Sharni Edwards-Peoples shared, “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.”
As stated in the Amnesty International UK press release, more than 1,200 same-sex couples are in a civil partnership. However, there are currently no plans in place to convert this through an administrative process into a marriage.
Northern Ireland Director of Amnesty International, part of the Love Equality campaign for marriage equality, Patrick Corrigan, further expressed, “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. We urge the Secretary of State to use the remaining two weeks before summer recess to lay the necessary regulations in Parliament.”
Since the press release was published, it has been reported that Government officials are voicing their commitment to allowing same-sex religious marriages in Northern Ireland from September 1 2020 and conversion entitlements regulations will follow as soon as possible before the end of 2020.
Delighted for all the couples who will now be able to plan their big day. We now need a date for the final step in delivering marriage equality: civil partnership conversion.
— Patrick Corrigan (@PatrickCorrigan) July 9, 2020
A UK government spokesperson told the Irish Times, “The government legislated for same-sex civil marriage in Northern Ireland from January 13th, 2020. We intend to lay regulations next week to allow for same-sex religious marriage in Northern Ireland to come into effect from September 1st, 2020. “Conversion entitlements regulations will follow as soon as possible before the end of 2020.”
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