Photo via WikiCommons/Ardfern
Weeks before Ireland’s historic popular vote for marriage equality in May, Northern Ireland’s Parliament, representing the six counties on the island that are still part of the United Kingdom, voted against same-sex marriage for the fourth time. Last year, England, Wales and Scotland extended marriage rights to gay couples. With recent victories in Ireland and Greenland, Northern Ireland is now the final holdout of inequality in Atlantic-lying Europe. With progress repeatedly blocked by the country’s government, two sets of couples have decided to take the issue to court.
Grainne Close and Shannon Sickles and Chris and Henry Flanagan-Kane have joined together to ask for a judicial review of Northern Ireland's existing same-sex marriage ban. Both entered into legal civil partnerships ten years ago—Close and Sickles were actually the first couple in all of the United Kingdom to enter into such a union. According to the Belfast Telegraph, Close characterized the situation as follows:
"Northern Ireland was the first place in the UK to recognise civil partnership legislation and is now the last place in the UK and Ireland to recognise equal marriage.”
Gavin Boyd, policy manager of the advocacy group the Rainbow Project, told Gay Star News:
“The Northern Ireland Assembly don't seem to be capable of passing same-sex marriage by themselves, so we have to bring it to the courts. We know courts tend to be the most effective way of harmonising laws across the UK.”
He then added:
"We currently have this crazy patchwork of marriage laws in the UK, it's a mess. It's something that Westminster could sort out tomorrow if they wanted. The UK is a single country, and it's not feasible for a couple's marriage to be viewed one way in one part and another way in a different part."
Northern Ireland does see majority support for same-sex marriage, with polls finding 50-58% approval.
(H/T Gay Star News)