Same-sex religious marriages will be able to take place in Northern Ireland from September 2020.
The new regulations, which were laid in Westminster just over a month ago, will mean that same-sex couples will be allowed to have a religious wedding. At the moment, the religious marriage of same-sex couples is not allowed in Northern Ireland.
From January, same-sex couples have been able to have civil marriages in Northern Ireland, but these regulations did not allow religious weddings.
From September, same-sex couples will be able to register to marry in religious settings. Religious bodies will be able to choose to opt in to provide same-sex ceremonies. Churches won’t be compelled to offer same-sex weddings.
Northern Ireland director at Amnesty International, Patrick Corrigan, described the day the announcement was made as a “landmark day for equality in Northern Ireland”.
“In line with our calls, we are pleased that the law will protect religious freedom, and that churches will neither be compelled nor prevented from offering wedding ceremonies to same-sex couples.
“This is an important issue for many couples in Northern Ireland, who have previously been prevented by law from marrying in their own church.”
Rev Chris Hudson, minister of All Souls Church in Belfast, said that he had already spoken to couples who had been waiting for these new regulations, so they could finally have the church wedding they wanted.
“Until now, this legal right has been denied to churches, ministers like me, and same-sex couples of faith in Northern Ireland.
“I want to pay tribute to the activists of Love Equality, Amnesty International and the LGBT community, who have led such a positive, love-filled campaign and ensured that no-one would be left behind in the fight for equal rights for all.”
Similar laws are already in place in the rest of the UK and Ireland.
When will the first religious wedding take place in Northern Ireland?
The earliest that same-sex religious marriages will be able to take place will be 29 September, as couples must give their 28 days’ notice of intent.
Neil Graham, a Partner at Grayfords comments as follows: “The new regulations align the province of Northern Ireland with the rest of the United Kingdom which has allowed same sex religious marriages in religious organisations that choose to participate since 2014. Although same sex marriage became possible in the province of Northern Ireland in January this year a prohibition on same sex religious marriages continued until 1 September. As in the rest of the United Kingdom, however, not all religious organisations are required to participate in offering same sex ceremonies and no religious organisation can be compelled to do so.”