Judgement has been reserved in the case taken by two same-sex couples who were the first people in the UK to enter civil partnerships in 2005.

Grainne Close, Shannon Sickles and Chris and Henry Flanagan-Kane were granted judicial review in which they challenged Stormont as the only UK administration to ban same-sex marriage.

Marriage is available to same-sex couples in every other part of the UK and Ireland.

Amnesty International considers Northern Ireland law to be in breach of international human rights standards which specify that countries must not discriminate with regards to the right to marry and found a family on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Laura McMahon, lawyer for the couples, argues that to bar equal marriage is a fundamental discrimination of their rights under the European Convention on Human Rights, by denying respect for their private and family lives.

Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty International’s Northern Ireland Programme Director, said:

“This case is hugely significant. Success in this case could have positive implications for thousands of other couples in Northern Ireland.

“Following the repeated failure of the Northern Ireland Assembly to legislate for marriage equality, couples have been forced into the courtroom to demand equal treatment before the law.

“It is unacceptable that they have been obliged to sue the government in order to have what the rest of society takes for granted – for the State to recognise their right to get married.

“With politicians having abdicated their responsibility to deliver equal treatment for same-sex couples, it is now over to the Courts.”

Belfast was the first place in the UK to host civil partnership ceremonies when the law was introduced over 10 years ago, but now Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK and Ireland that has not legalised same-sex marriage.

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