The Northern Ireland High Court is expected to hand down a judgment on the issue of same-sex marriage, nearly two years after three couples seeking to change the law had their cases heard in Belfast.
If the Judge rules that banning same-sex marriage from being recognised in Northern Ireland is against the law, it will not overturn the current The Marriage (Northern Ireland) Order 2003, the current legal mechanism by which same-sex couples are barred from marrying in Northern Ireland. Instead, the judgement will put pressure on the Government to change the law and it may be subject to an appeal.
Solicitor Ciaran Moynagh spoke about the complexities of the case, “Petition X is the key legal challenge to the current law which means same-sex marriages entered into in England and Wales are downgraded to Civil-Partnerships in Northern Ireland. This situation was established in 2013 following negotiations between the then Coalition government and the NI Assembly. The legal challenge has been brought by a couple who were married in England in 2014 but live in Northern Ireland. Successfully overturning this rule would mean same sex marriages are recognized in Northern Ireland for the first time.”
The second case involves two couples, currently in civil partnerships, who are seeking the court to declare that the ban on same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland represents unlawful infringements on their rights to family life and to marriage. If this case is successful, the responsibility to amend the marriage equality legislation in Westminster so that it includes marriage in Northern Ireland will fall to the UK government. However, regardless of the outcome in both of these cases, it is likely that there will be a stay placed on the judgment until after it has progressed through the appeals process so it is highly unlikely that there will be an immediate change in the law until appeals have been exhausted.
Link to Irish News article here