Jubilant cheers welcomed marriage equality as the law of the land in Northern Ireland at midnight last night, following a New Year’s-style countdown.
A tweet from the Maverick bar in Belfast shows confetti and a wild celebration as a deadline to stop marriage equality passed. Drag queen Titti Von Tramp hosted the evening, shouting, “we can love who we want to love … and they can do nothing about it! We are equal! We are proud to be who we are!”
As the crowd partied, she added, “welcome to history in Northern Ireland! Happy new fucking new year!”
Technically speaking, marriage equality isn’t legalized yet. That’ll require an additional vote, and as-yet-unmade adjustments to the law. But October 21 was the deadline for legislators to raise objections and halt the legalization process. Now, authorities will be required to reform laws to allow couples to register for marriages by January 13, 2020.
Following a 28-day waiting period, same-sex weddings are expected to begin by Valentine’s Day.
This reform was a long time coming, with repeated votes in the Northern Ireland Assembly dating back seven years. The first vote, in 2012, was defeated on a 50 to 45 vote. Gradually, support increased over the years, culminating in a 53 to 52 victory in 2015. But conservative politicians employed a parliamentary moved that halted the legislation from proceeding.
That set up a showdown between the Democratic Unionist Party, which opposed equality, and Sinn Féin, which strongly supported reforms.
But in 2017, the DUP fared poorly in elections, losing the number of seats needed to stop a marriage bill from proceeding. That was complicated when the Assembly dissolved, with legislators unable to reach agreement on a wide range of topics that included marriage equality and abortion.
With Northern Ireland’s Assembly no longer in session for the foreseeable future, the U.K. Parliament stepped in to introduce The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) (Northern Ireland) Bill in 2018. The bill passed multiple readings, despite objections from some members that the Assembly should be the entity to pass marriage legislation, rather than having it handed to them from the UK.
On November 1 of last year, modified version of the bill, known as the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation and Exercise of Functions) Act 2018, finally passed. It identified Northern Ireland’s ban on marriage equality and abortion as human rights violations. Rather than legalizing the freedom to marry, the bill requires the government to reform laws to end that violation.
An additional measure, introduced in July of 2019, required the country to legalize marriage equality if the Northern Ireland Assembly remained unformed. Essentially, legislators brought marriage equality to Northern Ireland by failing to form a new government.
The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland must now issue regulations on same-sex marriage to take effect by mid-January.
A poll conducted this year by YouGov showed that 70 percent of U.K. residents favorited the legalization of marriage, up from 65 percent in 2018.