Judge denies case for Northern Ireland marriage equality
The campaign for marriage equality in Northern Ireland has been pushed back again today, as two cases attempting to recognise same-sex marriage in law have been denied at the High Court.
One case, taken by the first two couples to enter civil partnerships in the UK, argued that NI’s same-sex marriage ban was a breach of Article 8 of the ECHR; that of privacy and respect for a private and family life. The second case, “Petition X,” was taken by a couple who married in England, aiming to have their marriage recognised in NI.
Justice O’Hara denied both cases on the grounds that marriage equality is social policy, and that his verdict was reached based on current law. This puts marriage equality legislation back in the hands of the Northern Ireland Assembly.
However, there is no sitting Assembly in Northern Ireland, as deadlocks between the DUP and Sinn Fein for governmental power have continued since the March elections. No legislation can be passed until the Assembly is functioning again; until then, power is in the hands of the civil service.
Previously, after a series of motions kick-started by Steven Agnew, the Assembly did vote 53-52 in favour of same-sex marriage; however, the DUP used the “Petition of Concern” veto to ensure this did not pass into law. With 30 MLAs (the minimum number needed to lodge a Petition) still being anti-equality, it is unclear whether the current Assembly could even pass the motion while the Petition of Concern remains in place.
Today’s court ruling has disappointed many LGBTQ activists and allies, and though the marriage campaign continues with more public support than ever before, Northern Ireland’s denial of LGBTQ rights and its endorsement of conservatism will only continue to alienate its progressive youth, who are turned away by political disregard for human rights, and dysfunctional sectarian government.