First gay men to get a civil partnership in the UK among first to marry under historic Northern Ireland law change

Civil partnership marriage Northern Ireland

More than 1,300 same-sex couples can convert their civil partnerships into marriages from Monday (7 December) in Northern Ireland following a pivotal legal change.

Seventeen queer couples are expected to convert their civil partnerships into marriages on Monday, with 32 conversions planned for this week.

Same-sex marriage was finally legalised in Northern Ireland in January following a years-long campaign by activists – however, the initial legal framework did not allow civil partnerships to be converted into marriages.

The law was finally changed in October, paving the way for all couples to have their relationships equally recognised from 7 December.

Same-sex couples convert civil partnerships into marriages in Northern Ireland following legal change

Amanda McGurk and Cara McCann became the first couple to convert their civil partnership into a marriage in Belfast on Monday morning.

Writing on Twitter, McGurk said: “Today after a long wait I officially get to be your wife Cara McCann. I can’t believe it, love you.”

Chris and Henry Flanagan-Kane, the first couple to have a civil partnership in the UK when the law was first introduced in 2005, were also one of the first couples to convert their union into a marriage on Monday.

Chris Flanagan-Kane told BBC News: “Love is love. If you fall in love, you want to get married and want the same rights as our heterosexual brothers and sisters.

“But in Northern Ireland we were denied the right to have equal marriage.”

The father-of-two said he and his husband faced discrimination for being in a civil partnership as oppose to a marriage, saying: “When we were filling in primary school forms and ticking a civil partnership box, you were kind of setting yourself up for discrimination before anyone had even met you.

Today after a long wait I officially get to be your wife Cara McCann. I can’t believe it, love you.

“We were going in somewhere with a big flashing sign saying ‘I’m gay’ – so other people with opinions on that or who were prejudiced against that, they were forming them already before they had even met you.

“So that was a big thing for us as well, about getting full, equal marriage rights.”

Activists in Northern Ireland have offered their congratulations to the same-sex couples converting their civil partnerships into marriages.

The couples were also congratulated by finance minister Conor Murphy, who said: “I would like to congratulate those couples who are converting their partnerships today and wish them a very happy life together.”

When the law was changed in October, Patrick Corrigan, director of Amnesty International Northern Ireland, said it was “the final piece of the jigsaw in bringing marriage equality to Northern Ireland”.