Same-sex couples take Stormont Assembly to court over gay marriage stance

Same-sex couples take Stormont Assembly to court over gay marriage stance

TWO SAME-SEX couples in the North of Ireland are taking the Government to court over its stance on gay marriage.

Gráinne Close and her wife Shannon Sickles, as well as Chris and Henry Flanagan-Kanem, have been granted permission by the High Court to have a judicial review carried out on the decision by the Stormont Assembly to repeatedly refuse to legislate for same-sex marriage.

The landmark case comes six months after the Republic voted overwhelming in favour of allowing same-sex couples to marry.

The Republic’s historic referendum means the North of Ireland is the only part of Britain and Ireland that does not allow civil marriage in same-sex relationships.

Ms Close and Ms Sickles were the first gay couple in the North of Ireland to enter into a civil partnership in December 2005, when it became legal there.

The Flanagan-Kanems were the second.

But despite a decade of civil partnerships being legal, the fifth debate on the subject was vetoed by the unionist majority in the Government last month.

“Success in this case could have positive implications for thousands of other couples in Northern Ireland,” said Patrick Corrigan, programme director for Amnesty International Northern Ireland.

“Following the repeated failure of the Northern Ireland Assembly to legislate for marriage equality, couples have been forced into the courtroom to demand equal treatment before the law.

“It is unacceptable that they have been obliged to sue the Government in order to have what the rest of society takes for granted - for the State to recognise their right to get married.

The judicial review will be heard before Belfast High Court.

A separate case being heard at a Belfast court at the moment may also have a major impact on same-sex partnerships in the North of Ireland.

A male couple, who were married in London last year, are seeking to have their marriage legally recognised in their home country.