Victory for Northern Ireland LGBTQ+ Community

Jessica Kennedy, Staff Writer |

On Oct. 22, history was made for the LGBTQ+ community of Northern Ireland. As the last country of the United Kingdom to legalize same-sex marriage, people rejoiced to finally marry the ones they love.

The movement for a law change has been slow, with Northern Ireland unable to find a comfortable delegation of power. The people of the country have been pressing for a devolution to give more power to local authorities rather than the Chief Electoral Officer or the Electoral Office, a non-partisan entity independent of government which administers elections for Northern Ireland. 

In July, a movement was passed by the Members of Parliament (MPs) stating if there was no successful devolution at Westminster by October, same-sex marriage rights would be brought to the nation. The MPs voted 383 to 73 to make gay marriage legal in Northern Ireland. In this same demand for change, the MPs also included abortion rights, which was voted for 332 to 99. Since there was no change over the three months, the Members of Parliament’s votes held and brought new rights for women and members of the LGBTQ+ community. This new legislation calls for the Westminster government to provide the regulations for same-sex marriage by January 2020. Northern Ireland and other news sources suggest this will cause turmoil within the country’s government, but the amendment will be upheld nonetheless. 

Since marriage laws in Northern Ireland call for a 28-day waiting period after applying for a marriage license, the first same-sex marriage is scheduled for the week of Feb.14, 2020. Prior to this new law, same-sex couples were only partially recognized by the government through civil marriages which took place at the Belfast Hall, in the nation’s capital. A 2012 Northern Ireland Life and Times survey shows over half of the nation in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage. The only thing stopping marriage equality over the last decade, even with public support, was Westminster. Now, same-sex couples are eager to act on their engagements and not have to move out of their hometown to get married.

In a video interview with the Gay Community News, same-sex couples and members of the LGBTQ+ community showed their excitement for this new equality and upgrade from civil partnerships. One couple said even though they don’t plan on getting married as soon as the 28-day waiting period is up, they still appreciate the option further down the road when they are ready to plan their dream wedding with friends and family. This was a big day for same-sex couples but also single members of the LGBTQ+ community. Social media posts with the hashtag “TheNorthIsNow” show Northern Irish same-sex couples and LGBTQ+ members thrilled to finally be able to meet the person of their dreams and not have to worry about what is down the road for their relationships. 

According to the World Population Review, the Netherlands was the first country to legalize same-sex marriage in 2001. Since then, 25 other countries have legalized same-sex weddings. There are 11 countries that only allow civil unions or partnerships, which the LGBTQ+ communities of those areas are trying to change.

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