Northern Ireland news

Decision due on same-sex marriage appeal

Henry and Christopher Flanagan Kane became civil partners at a ceremony in Belfast City Hall in December 2005
Andrea McKernon

A decision on the rights of same-sex couples to marry is due in the court of appeal following a hearing this week.

The civil case, on behalf of same-sex couples in Northern Ireland, will begin on Wednesday.

The British government has refused to legislate for same sex marriage in the north citing the need for a devolved administration, which has not functioned since January last year.

The two couples who were first to enter civil partnerships,have been campaigning for a change in the law since 2005 along with other same-sex couples.

Same-sex marriage has been introduced in Republic and Britain, making Northern Ireland the only region not to introduce equal marriage.

A judge dismissed two landmark challenges against the same-sex marriage ban last August and made clear it is for politicians, not the courts, to change the law.

Mr Justice O'Hara rejected both cases on the grounds that while European law allows for governments to introduce same-sex marriage, it does not compel them to do so.

He said the rights of three couples who took the two separate cases had therefore not been violated.

Speaking to The Irish News ahead of the latest legal challenge, Christopher Flanagan Kane from north Belfast said he and his partner Henry Flanagan Kane and lesbian couple Shannon Sickles and Grainne Close, were hoping to successfully appeal last year's ruling.

"As the first civilly partnered gay couple in Ireland, myself and my partner – along with the first civilly partnered lesbian couple – are mounting a legal challenge to change that."

Lawyers acting for the couples will argue the ongoing status of gay couples denied marriage is an infringement of human rights under article 8 of the European convention – the right to a personal and family life.

"In 2005 Northern Ireland took the first steps towards equality by legalising civil partnerships, but it feels like 13 years later our country has moved backwards," he said.

"Since then the rest of the UK and Republic have introduced same-sex marriage while Northern Ireland still lags behind.

"All we are asking for is the same civil rights as our heterosexual brothers and sisters."

The case is being crowd funded under the Northern Ireland marriage equality fund on the legal funding website Crowd Justice. Last night it had raised £4,715 of its £5,000 target.

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