Earlier this month top Barrister David McMillen QC told a court in Northern Ireland that it is;
“Effectively a blot on the map, which suggests to the rest of the world (it remains) a backward looking and divided society” This was said during a case that might mean victory for same-sex couples yearning to get married.
The case was initiated after a motion to legalise same sex marriage was passed by parliament and then vetoed by the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) using a political mechanism known as a “Petition of Concern”. The mechanism was designed during the troubles as a part of the peace process, the mechanism allows parties to veto motions going through parliament if they believe there is not enough cross-community support.
Two couples; Gráinne Close and Shannon Sickles and Chris and Henry Flanagan-Kane, filed a claim seeking judicial review of the DUP’s consistent vetoing of same-sex marriage bills. The DUP claim to represent the majority of people in their view on same-sex marriage, however a recent poll by Ipsos Mori suggests that 68% of people in Northern Ireland are in favour of same-sex marriage. This only adds to increasing pressure after the Republic of Ireland held a referendum on same-sex marriage which passed by a large majority. McMillen QC suggested that the DUP’s use of the petition of concern was “manifestly inappropriate” in this issue.
LGBT+ couples want to get married and it is the last legislative feat to overcome to end state discrimination. Northern Ireland is seen as a traditional country and many legal scholars would agree. The case is based on a claim that the denial of the right to get married is potentially in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Same-sex marriage is on the horizon for many LGBT+ people from Northern Ireland, and I think it is safe to say same-sex marriage will be achieved in the very close future. I have faith in the people of Northern Ireland; it would be an unforgivably democratic to allow a veto where the majority of people agree with a bill, not to mention the house passing it.
Ultimately it is up to the Northern Ireland Assembly to decide which side of history they want to be on. As the only place in the UK to deny same-sex marriage Northern Ireland is under immense pressure, it is clear something needs to be done.
The case continues.
by Lewis Sweeney
This article was written by Lewis Sweeney, a guest blogger of Grayfords.
Lewis is a law student who studies at the University of Westminster.
He is in the process of completing his LLB and has aspirations of becoming a barrister.