Northern Ireland finally gets full marriage equality as LGBT+ activists celebrate ‘last jigsaw piece’ becoming law

Patrick Kelleher
·3-min read

Northern Ireland has won full marriage equality after a law was amended to allow civil partnerships to be converted into marriages.

Activists in the country are celebrating after the law was updated at Westminster on Thursday morning (October 22), following the introduction of new regulations in parliament by Northern Ireland minister Robin Walker.

The stunning victory marks the completion of a years-long campaign from LGBT+ activists to see full marriage equality recognised in the region.

Thursday’s law change means that LGBT+ couples in Northern Ireland will be allowed to convert their civil partnerships into marriages from December 7, with the first conversions expected to take place that day.

Under the terms of the law change, couples in civil partnerships will have a three-year window in which they can convert their union into a marriage. The fee for doing so will be waived for the first year.

Activists in Northern Ireland mark ‘huge day of celebration’ as full marriage equality is won.

Patrick Corrigan, director of Amnesty International Northern Ireland, which is part of the Love Equality coalition, said the law change marked “the final piece of the jigsaw in bringing marriage equality to Northern Ireland”.

“It’s a huge day of celebration. We fought to change the law so it would cherish all couples and all families equally and now we have achieved that – first with civil marriage, then religious marriage and now finally, with civil partnership conversion.

“We want to thank all our supporters at Westminster and Stormont, including ministers and officials, who helped us to deliver this change. And to all the couples, their families, friends and the wider community in Northern Ireland who gave this campaign unstoppable momentum – this win is yours.”

Cara McCann, director of HereNI, a group dedicated to lesbian and bisexual women in Northern Ireland, said the law change would come as a “relief” to activists and to LGBT+ people in the region.

“This means that people in civil partnerships, like my partner Amanda and I, can finally come the married couple we have always wanted to be. This change means so much to so many people here, as we can finally see that the law respects our relationships as equal.”

John O’Doherty, director of the Rainbow Project, said he and his partner Martin will be among the couples converting their civil partnerships to marriages.

“The campaign for LGBT+ rights does not end with marriage, but the huge support we received from the general public on this issue shows that Northern Ireland demands equality for all.”

This change means so much to so many people here, as we can finally see that the law respects our relationships as equal.

The stunning victory is just the latest in a wave of legislative wins for LGBT+ activists in Northern Ireland.

In July 2019, MPs voted overwhelmingly in favour of extending marriage equality and abortion rights to the region, which paved the way for the legalisation of same-sex civil marriages in January.

However, activists continued their fight to ensure that all LGBT+ people would have the right to marry. In September, religious same-sex marriages were legalised after a months-long campaign, bringing the region in line with the rest of the United Kingdom.

Thursday’s law change means that marriage equality has finally been fully achieved in Northern Ireland, proving that love will always win.