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Gay couples take Northern Ireland same-sex marriage ban to court

Gay couples take Northern Ireland same-sex marriage ban to court

Gay couples in Northern Ireland, sick of their politicians refusing to pass marriage equality, are now going to challenge the ban legally.

Grainne Close and Shannon Sickles as well as Chris and Henry Flanagan-Kane are seeking a judicial review of the ban, hoping to equalise marriage laws across the UK.

Both couples entered into civil partnerships a decade ago in Belfast City Hall.

Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK and Ireland that does not currently recognize same-sex marriage.

In a Facebook post, Close wrote: ‘This year, December 19th, 2015 Shannon and I, along with Chris and Henry Flanagan-Kane, will celebrate 10 years of our civil partnerships.

‘Northern Ireland was the first place in the UK to recognise civil partnership legislation and is now the last place in the UK and Ireland to recognise equal marriage.

‘On (Friday) 26 June, 10am in the High Court, the four of us are bringing a legal challenge for a judicial review of the legislative prohibition preventing us from entering into civil marriage.’

‘Our barrister, Laura McMahon, will argue that to bar equal marriage is a fundamental discrimination of our rights under the European Convention on Human Rights, which is without justification,’ she added, the Belfast Telegraph reports.

The Northern Ireland has rejected the proposal of same-sex marriage four times, with the dominant DUP wielding an effective veto against equality.

Close added: ‘We are being denied a basic human right. You will hear the arguments from DUP and other religious groups (all the same that have been played out in the Irish referendum) that we have civil partnership, so why marriage?

‘The fact that we have to stand in a different queue from opposite sex peers when it comes to having our relationship recognised by the State is itself indicative that we are treated differently.’

Gavin Boyd, the policy manager of LGBTI rights group the Rainbow Project, said the LGBTI community in Northern Ireland has been left with no other route than pursuing equality by legal means.

The Rainbow Project is challenging the ban in their own way, helping a gay couple who legally married in England but their marriage is only recognized as a civil partnership in Northern Ireland.

Speaking to Gay Star News, Boyd said: ‘The Northern Ireland Assembly don’t seem to be capable of passing same-sex marriage by themselves, so we have to bring it to the courts. We know courts tend to be the most effective way of harmonising laws across the UK.’

He added: ‘We currently have this crazy patchwork of marriage laws in the UK, it’s a mess. It’s something that Westminster could sort out tomorrow if they wanted. The UK is a single country, and it’s not feasible for a couple’s marriage to be viewed one way in one part and another way in a different part.’

Polls show Northern Ireland does support same-sex marriage with around 50-58% in favor depending on the survey.