Same-sex couples celebrate marriage rights breakthrough in Northern Ireland
One of the first same-sex couples in the UK to have a civil partnership will be popping open a bottle of champagne at midnight as marriage rights move a step closer.
The move comes after MPs voted in July for legislation which requires the Government to extend same-sex marriage to the region if devolution is not restored by October 21.
Same-sex couples and marriage equality campaigners gathered on Monday at the Merchant Hotel in Belfast for some early celebrations.
They enjoyed wedding cake after a buffet reception surrounded by flowers and balloons, before cheering on the steps of the hotel, many holding signs which read “equal”.
Christopher Flanagan-Kane and Henry Flanagan-Kane were one of the first same-sex couples in the UK to have a civil partnership, after Northern Ireland became the first part of the UK to make it available in December 2005.
They told the PA news agency they will be opening a bottle of champagne at midnight in expectation of being able to change their civil partnership to a marriage more than a decade on.
“We thought back in 2005 that things were moving great, because we were the first people to get it brought in, but unfortunately it didn’t go that well since,” Christopher Flanagan-Kane said.
“But we are here today and hopefully this is it changed now. We have been waiting a long, long time for this.
“It’s not just about me and Henry, we have a son as well, and it is about his rights when he grows up, to grow up in a world where he is not equal just depending on sexuality.
“We had to grow up in the world like that, denied our rights.
“We just want the same rights as everyone else, to be like heterosexual couples.”
Cara McCann and her partner Amanda McGurk said they felt they would be waking up “a little more equal” on Tuesday morning.
“We are going to be treated the same as our friends and family,” Ms McCann said.
“We have been working on this campaign for years upon years and we never thought it would come so soon.”
Ms McGurk added: “It’s a big day for every same-sex couple in the north who want to get married, it will be fantastic for those who want to do so to be able to do so now.”
The event was organised by the Love Equality campaign, which is led by the Rainbow Project, Amnesty International, Irish Congress of Trade Unions, Cara-Friend, NUS-USI and Here NI.
Patrick Corrigan, Northern Ireland director of Amnesty International, said the moment comes after years of campaigning.
“Today we celebrate success, secured not because of the presence of Stormont, but because of its absence,” he said.
“Despite overwhelming popular support for change, sadly the Executive and Assembly repeatedly failed to deliver marriage equality and abortion law reform.
“When Stormont collapsed, we took our campaigns to Westminster.
“This is an incredible moment for so many people, especially for same-sex couples, who will now be treated as equal citizens in their own country.”