The North is now the only region in the UK and Ireland not to extend civil marriage rights to same sex couples so many are now choosing to cross the Border to get married.
At Stormont last month, a motion in support of marriage equality received a slim majority in favor for the first time but the move was only symbolic as it vetoed by the DUP using a petition of concern blocking mechanism.
Following Ireland’s historic Yes vote in May the campaign for marriage equality in the North is gaining momentum and is being challenged in the courts.
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Despite civil marriages carried out in the south only being recognised as civil partnerships in the North, gay and lesbian couples are choosing to tie the knot over the Border anyway.
Donal Murray (32), a nurse practitioner and John Campbell (30), a hotel supervisor met more than five years ago during Belfast Pride festivities.
Their wedding is due to take place in Ballymagarvey Village, Balrath, Co Meath on July 24th next year.
The couple were to have a civil partnership, but following the Yes vote in the referendum they immediately decided to opt for civil marriage instead.
“When the referendum was a success then it just reaffirmed to both John and I that having our wedding in the south was going to be even more special and significant as we would be legally married in the south.”
Murray added that he and Campbell “firmly support equality for the LGBT community and hope that in time the North will change in line with the rest of the UK and Ireland”.
They will be joining the growing list of couples from the North to opt for a civil marriage ceremony across the Border.
Darren and Tony Day for east Belfast were among the first couples to get married last week after the Marriage Act 2015 was signed into law.
Tony (38) a publisher, originally from Lisburn and Darren (42) a musician and teacher, originally from Newtownabbey, have been been together for more than six years after meeting online.
Their wedding was held in Co Monaghan on Saturday and their marriage was legally recognized on Tuesday when a short ceremony made it official.
“We didn’t originally decide to get married in the south,” said Tony.
“Originally we planned on having a civil partnership in Belfast on Thursday but when the choice arose to wait a couple of days after our big day to actually get married we decided that was a better option.
“Purely so that when it does eventually become recognised in NI, we don’t have to upgrade from a civil partnership to a marriage.”
Day’s ex-wife Sabrina was one of his “grooms maid”, their daughter India (14) did a reading at the service and son Parker (7) walked Tony and Darren down the aisle.
“It was a disappointing that literally an hour after we were married and travelled back to NI, our marriage was no longer recognized as such,” he added.
Belfast solicitor Ciarán Moynagh says couples will avail of civil marriage across the Border, despite it not being recorded as such in the North.
“The progressive movement in the south is hugely positive and really puts the focus on the North of Ireland. It shows that our position is unsustainable,” he said.
He added: “Under the Civil Partnership Act 2004 section 215 downgrades an ‘overseas relationship’ to civil partnerships. Obviously this marriage is not overseas but this provision applies as it has been formed outside the United Kingdom. We have even more difficulties when it comes to looking at Scotland. I am not sure the Government when drafting the Civil Partnership Act 2004 ever envisaged this unique issue and I have been approached by couples seeking advice on their status in the North.”
The case of a couple Ciarán Moynagh represents, challenging the conversion of a same-sex marriage in London to a civil partnership in Belfast, is ongoing before the High Court and is listed for two further days of hearing at the start of December.
John O’Doherty, director of the Belfast-based Rainbow Project, said with “equal marriage now a reality across these islands there will be an increasing number of married same sex couples living in Northern Ireland who are not recognised”.
“This further reflects the irrationality of the illogical patchwork of marriage laws across the UK and Ireland.
“The idea that a marriage can be recognised in some parts of the UK and not others has no basis in law and is directly discriminatory towards legally married couples residing in Northern Ireland.
“Unfortunately the Northern Ireland Assembly has proven itself incapable of dealing with this inequality so same sex couples have had to turn to the courts.
“We know that a majority of both people and politicians in Northern Ireland support the introduction of equal marriage so it is only a matter of time before it becomes reality.”