Legislation enabling same-sex couples to get married and civil partnerships for all couples coming into effect this week has been welcomed by local representatives.
Changes to the laws came into effect on Monday, January 13, which means that for the first time lesbian and gay couples can get married in the north of Ireland, while opposite-sex civil partnerships are now also legal in Northern Ireland.
From this week, couples can now give notice to the Registrar of their intention to marry or become civil partners in their District Council, with a minimum of 28 days’ notice period required before such ceremonies can take place.
Foyle MLAs Mark Durkan and Karen Mullan have been among those to welcome the historic occasion.
Sinn Féin’s Karen Mullan said: “It marks a momentous step for LGBTQ+ people across the north, as same-sex couples receive the long-awaited right to register to marry the person they love and finally have their relationships recognised as equal before the law.
“This day is one to be celebrated and is a major milestone in the journey to full equality for all citizens on this island, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
“I would like to pay tribute to all those who campaigned for so long to demand equality, inclusion and fair treatment; today is theirs.”
SDLP MLA Mark H Durkan said the introduction of the new legislation was “long-overdue”, and has written to Secretary of State Julian Smith to clarify the process and timescale surrounding the conversion of civil partnership into a marriage.
He said: “The long-overdue and much anticipated legislation means that from today same-sex couples can register to marry and the first ceremonies will take place in February. Those couples who have entered a civil partnership will be able to convert their union to a marriage in due course.
“Today’s momentous move is a time to reflect on how far society has come and to consider the work that still needs to be carried out in regard to LGBT rights. Whilst it is fantastic that the LGBT community can now have their love recognised within the legal framework here, the discrimination faced by the LGBT community goes far beyond the denial of civil liberties.”