Law change sees same-sex religious weddings now available in Northern Ireland

Same-sex couples in Northern Ireland can apply to have a religious wedding ceremony following a change in the law.

From Tuesday, couples will be able to register to marry in a religious setting, and religious bodies can choose to opt in to provide same-sex weddings.

With a statutory 28-day waiting period, the earliest date for a same-sex religious wedding will be September 29.

Amnesty International has welcomed the move, which came after a long-term campaign, but urged the Government to “finish the job” by allowing same-sex couples with an existing civil partnership to be able to convert their partnership into a marriage.

There are 1,200 same-sex couples in Northern Ireland who currently have civil partnerships.

Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty International’s Northern Ireland Director and part of the Love Equality coalition, described Tuesday as a “milestone for equality in Northern Ireland”.

“After years of campaigning, same-sex couples of faith can finally register to marry in a church or other religious setting,” he said.

“In line with our campaign, we are pleased that the law will protect religious freedom, and that churches will neither be compelled nor prevented from offering wedding ceremonies to same-sex couples.

“This is an important issue for many couples in Northern Ireland, who have previously been prevented by law from marrying in their own church.

“We now urge the Government to finish the job of marriage equality in Northern Ireland, by allowing couples in civil partnerships to convert to married status if they so wish.”

Same-sex civil marriage became legal in Northern Ireland on January 13 this year.

The first wedding took place on February 11, when Sharni Edwards and Robyn Peoples married in Carrickfergus.

Sinn Fein vice president Michelle O’Neill tweeted: “Today the North took another welcome step towards full marriage equality and I want to congratulate all those couples who are now planning their big day.

“All remaining barriers to equality should now be removed.”

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