Julian Smith, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland last night signed regulations to enable same-sex marriage. The law takes effect on 13 January and couples must wait a standard 28 days after submitting their intention to marry. Because of that, Northern Ireland will host its first same-sex weddings on Valentine’s Day 2020.
Previously, same-sex marriage remained illegal in only two places in the British Isles — Northern Ireland and Sark. Sark, a channel island with a population of 500, voted to legalise same-sex marriage last week. Prior to that, the British Parliament legalised same-sex marriage in 2013 and the Scottish Parliament in 2014.
In other smaller Britsh jurisdictions, the Isle of Man allowed same-sex marriage from 2016 and Guernsey from 2017. The first legal same-sex weddings took place in both Jersey and Alderney in 2018.
The neighbouring Republic of Ireland amended its constitution back in 2015 to allow marriage between two people irrespective of gender. That followed a nation-wide referendum which resulted in a 62.07% YES vote, a similar result to the later Australian postal vote.
The Northern Ireland Assembly, commonly known as Stormont, has been suspended since 2017 over disagreements between the major parties. The British Parliament voted in July to introduce same-sex marriage to the country if the parties did not agree on a new Northern Ireland Executive by October. With the parties failing to agree, the Secretary of State acted.
After signing off on the regulations he tweeted a photograph of himself with the document.
A very good end to the day – signing the new same sex marriage regulations for Northern Ireland. Same sex couples in NI will now be able to marry by Valentine’s Day 2020. pic.twitter.com/gAeUy6f9Jw
— Julian Smith MP (@JulianSmithUK) December 19, 2019
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