Northern Ireland is now the only place in the UK where gays can’t marry

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As the first same-sex wedding ceremonies took place in Scotland today, and many others gave notice to marry on New Year’s Eve, Northern Ireland became the only place in the UK where gay and lesbian couples can’t tie the knot.

The Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Act took full effect in England and Wales last week, as on 10 December couples in civil partnerships were finally able to convert to marriage.

That followed on from 29 March, the date on which unmarried same-sex couples were first able to tie the knot.

Following shortly afterwards, Scottish same-sex couples already in civil partnerships could convert from today, and unmarried couples were able to give notice to marry, with the first ceremonies taking place on Hogmanay, 31 December 2014.

Northern Ireland still lags behind the rest of the UK in equality legislation, with attempts to bring forward debates on same-sex marriage having been continually blocked there.

Campaigners in Northern Ireland were recently paving the way for a legal challenge over the country’s failure to introduce same-sex marriage.

Any legal challenge is still at an early stage but similar cases based on human rights legislation have previously led to the legalisation of adoption rights for same-sex couples in the province.

The Democratic Unionist Party has three times voted against attempts to legalise same-sex marriage in the Northern Ireland Assembly – most recently in April.

The DUP has the most MLAs of any party in the Assembly.

Amnesty International has warned the Assembly that it will not be able to block same-sex marriage indefinitely; the group predicts that legality is likely to be settled in the courts, if not by politicians.

As well as a lack of same-sex marriage legislation, Northern Ireland has continually declined to lift its lifetime ban on gay and bisexual men giving blood.