Challenge to Northern Irish same-sex marriage ban goes to High Court

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A challenge against Northern Ireland’s ban on same-sex marriage will go to the High Court this week.

The challenge is brought by the first two couples to enter into civil partnerships in the UK.

Grainne Close and Shannon Sickles and Chris and Henry Flanagan-Kane, will seek a judicial review of the ban in Northern Ireland.

Currently same-sex couples can marry in England, Scotland and Wales, but attempts to legalise equal marriage in Northern Ireland have continually been blocked.

The couples were the first to enter civil partnerships in 2005, as Northern Ireland was the first place in the UK to recognise civil partnerships.

Writing on Facebook, Ms Close said: “This year, December 19th, 2015 Shannon and I, along with Chris and Henry Flanagan-Kane, will celebrate 10 years of our civil partnerships.

“Northern Ireland was the first place in the UK to recognise civil partnership legislation and is now the last place in the UK and Ireland to recognise equal marriage.

“On (Friday) June 26th, 10am in the High Court, the four of us are bringing a legal challenge for a judicial review of the legislative prohibition preventing us from entering into civil marriage.”

She added: “Our barrister, Laura McMahon, will argue that to bar equal marriage is a fundamental discrimination of our rights under the European Convention on Human Rights, which is without justification.”

Same-sex marriage advocates are urging supporters to attend the High Court at 10am on Friday.

In Northern Ireland the Democratic Unionist Party government continues to block all LGBT rights legislation including same-sex marriage – with the measure rejected by Stormont for a fourth time last month despite popular support.

The DUP has dismissed calls to follow the Republic of Ireland in holding a referendum – but Northern Ireland is now very much isolated in Northern Europe on the issue.

In Europe, same-sex marriage is now legal in Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain and Sweden – as well as Scotland, England and Wales inside the United Kingdom.

The Crown Dependencies of Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man are also still to introduce equality – but have a much smaller population than Northern Ireland’s 1.8 million.