Northern Irish High Court hears legal challenge to ban on same-sex marriage

Belfast High Court will today hear a legal challenge over whether to introduce same-sex marriage

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The High Court in Belfast is today hearing a challenge to Northern Ireland’s ban on same-sex marriage.

Two couples have mounted a joint legal challenge and are applying for leave to have a review of the region’s ban on same-sex marriage.

Grainne Close and Shannon Sickles will be joined by Chris and Henry Flanagan-Kane who were both the first and second couples in the UK to enter civil partnerships when they were introduced in 2005.

Unlike the rest of the UK, same-sex couples cannot be married in Northern Ireland. The Stormont Assembly has debated the issue four times, wit reform backed by Sinn Fein, but on each occasion it has been blocked by the Democratic Unionist Party triggering a mechanism in the parliament called a ‘petition of concern’.  

The Republic of Ireland became the first country in the world to legalise same-sex marriage by popular vote in a referendum held last month.

Two weeks ago, an estimated 20,000 people marched in Belfast city centre in support of changing the law in Northern Ireland.

Grainne Teggart, spokesperson for Amnesty International  and one of the organisers of the rally said of today’s legal challenge: “We predicted there would be this kind of legal challenge as politicians were leaving the region’s same-sex couples with no choice but to go the courts.

“As on so many issues, Northern Ireland’s politicians lag behind the people. Between the marriage equality referendum in Ireland and legislation in the UK there is unstoppable momentum to bring equal marriage to this region.

“Same sex couples in every party of the UK should have an equal right to marry the person they love.”