Same-sex marriage and abortion now law in Northern Ireland
NEW legislation governing both same-sex marriage and abortion in Northern Ireland came into effect at midnight.
The failure of yesterday's last minute attempt by the DUP to revive Stormont to stop the liberalisation of abortion laws means both it and same-sex marriage have formally been introduced.
Both issues saw legislation passed by Westminster in July, to take effect by October 21 if the Northern Ireland assembly and executive had not been reformed.
Secretary of State Julian Smith said he plans a new legal framework for access to abortion services in the region to be in place by March 31, with the first same-sex marriages likely to take place by Valentine's Day 2020.
"A new legal framework for lawful access to abortion services in Northern Ireland will be put in place by March 31 2020 in line with the 2018 UN Cedaw (Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women) report," he told MPs in the House of Commons.
"I will be consulting on the new framework very soon," he said.
"On same-sex marriage and opposite-sex civil partnerships, regulations are to be made no later than January 13 2020.
"There are two key areas we are going to consult on. How to allow for religious same-sex marriage ceremonies, and also the issue of conversion from civil partnership to marriage and vice-versa."
"At the latest, the first civil same-sex marriages will take place on the week of Valentine's Day 2020."
Mr Smith said the Northern Ireland Assembly "can influence" but was firm that "the law has changed".