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Challenge to Northern Ireland same-sex marriage ban dismissed

Stormont Assembly must decide issues of social policy

Two legal challenges to the ban in Northern Ireland upon same-sex marriage have been dismissed by Mr Justice O'Hara in the High Court. O'Hara J said that the ban did not violate the rights of LGBT couples in the region and that it was for the Stormont Assembly to decide issues of social policy. The relationships of couples in a same-sex marriage who move to Northern Ireland will be treated as civil partnerships.

Two separate cases were heard together by the judge. In one two couples in civil partnerships claimed that the ban was a breach of their human rights. In the other – known as Petition X – two men who married in England in 2014 were attempting to have their marriage recognised in Northern Ireland. It was changed to a civil partnership when they moved to Northern Ireland.

The Rainbow Project, Northern Ireland's largest support and advocacy organisation for lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender people and the families in Northern Ireland, expressed disappointment in the dismissal of Petition X, the request to recognise a lawful same sex marriage in Northern Ireland.

Speaking after the judgment, Director of The Rainbow Project said:

"Of course we are bitterly disappointed for our clients who just wanted to be treated the same as everyone else. They were lawfully married in England and all they sought was recognition of their marriage at home in Northern Ireland. Today, the court was unwilling to grant them this simple recognition of their lawful marriage. We know that this decision will be very disappointing for our clients and we thank them for their courage in seeking this declaration, not only for themselves, but for every LGBT person in Northern Ireland.

"However, the battle for marriage equality in Northern Ireland continues and although we will study the judgment and consult with our clients and legal team about the prospects of a successful appeal, this judgment makes clear that it is the ultimate responsibility of legislators to protect the marriage rights of LGBT people. Of course, we would prefer that the Northern Ireland Assembly were in a position to grant these rights; the Assembly is not currently functioning.

"It is, therefore, the responsibility of Theresa May's government to make the necessary amendments to the marriage legislation to make it applicable in Northern Ireland."

For a report in the Belfast Telegraph, click here.

18/8/17