Northern Irish same-sex couple go to court over marriage ban

A Northern Irish couple has initiated a challenge to lift the ban on same-sex marriages in Northern Ireland on the grounds of unlawful discrimination.

The couple married in London in 2014; however, upon returning to Northern Ireland their marriage was not recognised as legal. In response the couple has filed now a case with at the Family Division of the High Court in Belfast on the grounds the same-sex marriage ban falls under unlawful discrimination.

Last week the assembly of Northern Ireland narrowly voted in favour of same-sex marriage equality, but the vote was then vetoed by the Democratic Unionists, the largest party in Northern Ireland’s devolved government, who claimed same-sex marriage did not have enough cross-party support to justify same-sex marriage recognition.

One assembly member, Jim Allister of the Traditional Unionist party, said same-sex marriages were “a perverse definition” and the campaigns for the legalisation of such marriages were a “worked-up phoney demand for rights”.

Speaking on the case, Patrick Corrigan of Amnesty International’s Northern Ireland Programme Director said: “This case is hugely significant. Following the repeated failure of the Northern Ireland Assembly to legislate for marriage equality, litigation has been forced on this couple who simply want their marriage to be recognised as such in the place they live.

“It is the case of a couple who took off from Heathrow as a married couple and landed in Belfast no longer married. That is how absurd and inconsistent the marriage law for same-sex couples is in the UK.

“It’s unacceptable that they have been forced into a courtroom in order to have what the rest of society takes for granted – for the State to recognise the legality of their own marriage union.

“Success in this case could have positive implications for hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of other same-sex couples in Northern Ireland. With politicians having abdicated their responsibility to deliver equal treatment for same-sex couples, i is now over the Courts.”