Same-sex marriage legal in Northern Ireland from today

By Lenore Rice

As of today, Monday 13th January 2020, same-sex couples can register to marry in Northern Ireland, and couples who married previously outside Northern Ireland will now have their marriage recognised.

It has been a long road to equality for same sex couples in Northern Ireland. Same-sex marriages have been legal in the rest of the UK since 2014. There was a majority vote in favour of the change in Northern Ireland in November 2015 but the DUP used veto powers to block it. It was the absence of a devolved government in Northern Ireland which largely paved the way for the law to be changed, as marriage equality campaigners were able to target Westminster MPs instead.

In July 2019 MPs backed amendments made to the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019 which required a change to laws on abortion and same-sex marriage if a devolved government was not restored by 21st October 2019. The changes take place today, which enables same-sex couples to register to marry, with the first ceremonies able to take place 28 days later.

While same-sex couples who married already will now have their marriage recognised, couples in a civil partnership are not currently able to convert it to a marriage. The changes introduced today also mean that heterosexual couples can now enter into civil partnerships in Northern Ireland.

If you require legal advice in respect of cohabitation, civil partnerships or marriage from an expert family law solicitor in Northern Ireland contact Wilson Nesbitt in Belfast or Bangor by clicking here.