Campaigners have issued a call, on the twelfth anniversary of the UK’s first civil partnerships, for Secretary of State James Brokenshire to legislate for civil marriage equality in Northern Ireland.
Tomorrow (December 19th) marks the twelfth anniversary of the UK’s first civil partnerships, which came into effect in Northern Ireland on December 19 2005, a day earlier than other parts of the UK.
The first couples to enter into a civil partnership in the UK were Grainne Close and Sharon Sickles, and Henry Kane and Christopher Flanagan, with ceremonies at Belfast City Hall. Twelve years on, both couples are still together and are now fighting through the courts for the right to equal marriage in Northern Ireland.
The civil partnership law was passed by Tony Blair’s Labour government and was introduced to Northern Ireland by then-Secretary of State, Peter Hain, via direct rule.
Twelve years on, equal marriage campaigners are now calling for his successor as Secretary of State, James Brokenshire, to follow suit by bringing the law in Northern Ireland into line with other parts of the UK via legislation at Westminster.
Patrick Corrigan, of the Love Equality campaign for equal civil marriage said:
“There is overwhelming support for civil marriage equality among most people in Northern Ireland and also now within the Assembly. But with Stormont suspended for almost a year, we need
James Brokenshire to intervene to ensure equality for the LGBT community here, just as Peter Hain did twelve years ago.”
Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK or Ireland which still bans marriage for same-sex couples, despite majority support among the public and in the Northern Ireland Assembly. In November 2015 a majority of MLAs in the Assembly voted to support equal marriage, but the measure was blocked by the DUP using a Petition of Concern, a voting mechanism originally designed to protect the rights of minorities in Northern Ireland. An Ipsos MORI poll in 2016 showed 70% support for marriage equality amongst the Northern Ireland public.
Love Equality is the campaign for civil marriage equality in Northern Ireland and is a coalition comprising the Rainbow Project, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, Amnesty International, NUS-USI (National Union of Students), Here NI and Cara Friend.