NI: NI same-sex marriage recognition case begins in High Court

Patrick Corrigan
Patrick Corrigan, Northern Ireland programme director at Amnesty International

An anonymous same-sex couple seeking recognition of their marriage in Northern Ireland took their case to the Family Division of the High Court in Belfast this morning.

Claimant X and his husband are from Northern Ireland and were married in England last year, but are recognised as civil partners rather than spouses in Northern Ireland. They are represented by barrister Karen Quinlivan and solicitor Ciaran Moynagh from McLernon Moynagh Solicitors.

The couple is challenging the Northern Ireland Assembly, represented by Attorney General John Larkin QC, and the UK government.

The high-profile case opened before the court at 10am.

Patrick Corrigan, Northern Ireland programme director at Amnesty International, told Irish Legal News: “This case is hugely significant. Following the repeated failure of the Northern Ireland Assembly to legislate for marriage equality, litigation has been forced on this couple who simply want their marriage to be recognised as such in the place they live.

“It is absurd that the couple’s legally-conducted marriage is recognised in England, Scotland and Wales, yet not where they live and work in Northern Ireland. It is absurd that they should be forced into a courtroom in order to have what the rest of society takes for granted - to have the State recognise the legality of their marriage union.

“Success in this case could have positive implications for hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of other same-sex couples in Northern Ireland. With politicians having abdicated in their responsibility to deliver equal treatment for same-sex couples, it is now over to the Courts.”

John O’Doherty, director of LGBT advocacy organisation The Rainbow Project, added: “We are very happy to support this important legal challenge to the UK’s irrational patchwork of marriage laws, which has been created by the Westminster government.

“X and his husband are married. It is really that simple. They were lawfully married and their marriage remains lawful in Northern Ireland. It is without precedent that a married person stops being married when they travel to different parts of the UK and it is hugely insulting to X and his husband that their marriage could be reclassified without their consent and called a civil partnership when it is not.

“It is unfortunate that private citizens must pick up the burden of ensuring equal treatment for LGBT people under the law but, when legislatures are unwilling or unable to do this, we are grateful that brave individuals like X and his husband can speak truth to power and stand up for their fundamental human rights.”

A second legal challenge to laws governing same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland is expected to be heard in the judicial review court early next month.

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