“To the frustration of supporters of same-sex marriage the Assembly has not yet passed into law any measure to recognise and introduce same sex marriage.”
Northern Ireland’s High Court has dismissed two cases which challenged the lack of provision for same-sex marriage in the country.
The first case, known as ‘petition X’, was taken by a gay man who lives and works in Northern Ireland and married his husband in London in September 2014, under legislation that does not extend to Northern Ireland.
The plaintiff, who wishes to remain anonymous, brought the proceedings to court to seek a declaration that his marriage in London is a valid marriage under the law of Northern Ireland, saying the failure to recognise his marriage as valid contravenes his rights under the European Convention on Human Rights.
The second case was taken jointly by two same-sex couples, Grainne Close and Shannon Sickles, and Chris and Henry Flanagan-Kane, who were the first gay couple and the first lesbian couple to become civil partners in the UK in 2005.
The two cases were heard in parallel due to their comparable legal arguments, reports the BBC.
Justice O’Hara said that while the courts are obliged to intervene in some circumstances, they should be careful about how and when they do so and respect the separation of powers.
“It is in fact doubtful that the area of discretionary judgment arises in this case because the Strasbourg Court has held that same sex-marriage is not even a Convention right. This means that while it is open to Governments and Parliaments to provide for it, they are not obliged to do so and whether or not they do so is a matter for them, not the Court.
The judgment which I have to reach is not based on social policy but on the law
Making his judgement, the Judge said: “To the frustration of supporters of same-sex marriage the [Northern Ireland] Assembly has not yet passed into law any measure to recognise and introduce same sex marriage. Their frustration is increased by the fact that the Assembly has voted by a majority in favour of same-sex marriage, but by reason of special voting arrangements which reflect the troubled past of this State, that majority has not been sufficient to give the vote effect in law.
“It is not at all difficult to understand how gay men and lesbians who have suffered discrimination, rejection and exclusion feel so strongly about the maintenance in Northern Ireland of the barrier to same sex marriage. However, the judgment which I have to reach is not based on social policy but on the law.”
Northern Ireland’s DUP has repeatedly vetoed the legalisation of same-sex marriage using a ‘petition of concern’ to prevent the Assembly members vote in favour of legalisation in Stormont Assembly from progressing.
Ireland’s first gay Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, urged Northern Ireland to introduce same-sex marriage in a recent visit to Belfast, predicting that it is only a matter of time before it does become legal there.
DUP leader Arlene Foster has remained resolutely opposed to legislating for same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland.
The DUP leader also came under fire for allegedly putting pressure on Scotland to deny same-sex couples who became civil partners in Northern Ireland from being upgraded to a marriage in Scotland, although Foster claims she has no recollection of such a letter.
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