Northern Ireland has become the final part of the UK to legalise same sex marriage, no less than five years after England, Wales and Scotland all did so in 2014.
Same sex marriage will officially become legal in the Province on 13 January, with the first weddings expected to follow four weeks later, on 14 February. The legislation has taken an unusual route. The Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019, which received royal assent in July, extended the available period for forming a new government in the region after the Northern Ireland Executive collapsed more than three years ago. When 21 October passed without the formation of a new Executive, two separate amendments to the Act came into force, one legalising same sex marriage and the other legalising abortion in non-emergency situations.
Regulations for the provision of the latter must be introduced by the end of March.
Same sex marriage legislation has had a turbulent history in the province. It came before the Executive in Stormont no less than five times but only achieved a slim majority on the last occasion. However the Democratic Unionist Party vetoed the latter vote.
Catholic bishops across the Province expressed dismay at the developments but they received a more positive response from Amnesty International. Northern Ireland campaign manager Grainne Teggart said it was:
“The beginning of a new era for Northern Ireland – one in which we’re free from oppressive laws that have policed our bodies and healthcare.”
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