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Northern Ireland's Same-Sex Marriage Ban Ruled Discriminatory by Court

Northern Ireland

A new ruling from one Northern Ireland's top court has ruled that the country's former ban on same-sex marriage was "discrimination" and "not justified."

Previously, two same-sex couples had sued for their civil unions to be recognized as marriages. A 2017 judgment dismissed the issue as a matter for the legislature, not the courts. One of the couples appealed.

Over two years later, the Court of Appeal sided with the couple. Sir Declan Morgan, the Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland, clarified why in his judgment. 

“It was clear by the time of the delivery of the first instance judgment in this case in August 2017 that the absence of same-sex marriage in this jurisdiction discriminated against same-sex couples, that a fair balance between tradition and personal rights had not been struck and that therefore the discrimination was not justified,” he said, according to Pink News.

Morgan added that Scotland and Ireland put this discrimination in stark relief when these nations recognized marriage equality in 2015 while their neighbor lagged behind.

“People who were married in those jurisdictions did not have their marriages recognized here and those who had formed civil partnerships here were prohibited from solemnizing marriages in their own neighborhood unlike their friends and relatives in those jurisdictions,” he said.

“In our view the events of 2015 and their consequences increasingly called into question the balance between the interests of those favoring tradition and the interests of those denied the opportunity to be seen as equal and no longer separate," he added.

It’s been a complicated road for the country to join the rest of the United Kingdom in legalizing both same-sex marriage and abortion. In 2019, Northern Ireland's government collapsed, forcing the U.K. government to intervene in its politics. A resulting amendment in the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019 clarified that the U.K. Parliament will determine the nation's legality of abortions and marriages. Since England and Wales have recognized same-sex marriage since 2014, that became the law of the land in Northern Ireland in January.

In light of this legal development, the Court of Appeal stated that there would be “no purpose to be served” in ruling on whether the denial of marriage to same-sex couples was a human rights violation.

RELATED | This Lesbian Couple to Be First Same-Sex Marriage in Northern Ireland

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