First same-sex marriages to be held in February
THE first same-sex marriages in Northern Ireland are to take place on Valentine's Day next year following a landmark change in the law.
Legislation passed by MPs at Westminster - in the absence of a power-sharing executive at Stormont - came into effect yesterday.
The law change happened after MLAs failed to re-form a devolved government by a deadline of October 21.
The British government must now bring in new rules for same-sex marriage by January 13, with February 14 set to be the first day ceremonies can take place.
The change has come following a long public campaign.
Civil partnerships have been legal in the north and Britain since 2004.
Same-sex marriage was introduced to England, Scotland and Wales in 2014.
However, the legislation was not extended to Northern Ireland because the DUP vetoed the move at Stormont.
The party has consistently said it "supports the traditional definition of marriage of one man and one woman".
The Republic voted to legalise same-sex marriage in a referendum in 2015.
Couples in a civil partnership have the same rights and responsibilities as those in a marriage.
However, the process of forming the partnerships is different. A marriage is formed when a couple exchange spoken vows, whereas a civil partnership happens when when the second civil partner signs the relevant document.
A marriage is usually also marked by a religious or civil ceremony. However, a partnership is entirely a civil process and no ceremony needs to take place.
Following a court case in 2018, opposite sex couples in Britain were allowed to enter into a civil partnership.