More than 1,300 couples can convert civil partnerships into marriage under new law

Cara McCann and Amanda McGurk first couple to avail of new legislation at Belfast City Hall

Same sex couples in Northern Ireland who previously were in civil partnerships now can now marry for the first time following a recent law change.

More than 30 couples are expected to convert their civil partnerships into marriage this week in Northern Ireland.

First to do so were Cara McCann and Amanda McGurk, who entered a civil partnership on St Valentine's Day last year. That partnership was officially transformed into a marriage through a registration process at Belfast City Hall on Monday.

Both were involved in the Love Equality campaign for same-sex marriage rights in Northern Ireland.


Under the new legislation that came into effect on Monday more than 1,300 same sex couples will be able to convert their partnerships into marriage.

Such civil partnerships have been legal in Northern Ireland since 2005 but it was only earlier this year that same-sex marriages were permitted.

Also availing of the law change on Monday were two of the leaders of that campaign, John O'Doherty, director of the Rainbow Project who is marrying his partner Martin Toland at Lisburn Civic Centre.

Due, however, to the current Covid-19 restrictions neither couple will be able to have a wedding party on Monday.

“We want to thank everyone who was part of this great movement for love and equality and which has delivered this wonderful, positive change for our society,” said Cara McCann.

“We fought long and hard for the right to marry,” she added.

John O’Doherty of the Rainbow Project said that with Monday’s weddings they had “reached the successful endpoint of our campaign to bring marriage equality to Northern Ireland”.

“For the LGBT+ community, there are still more battles to be fought for equality, but today is a day of celebration, not just for us, but for everyone who marched with us,” he said.

Patrick Corrigan, Northern Ireland director of Amnesty International, one of the leaders of the Love Equality coalition, said it had taken "years of campaigning and the efforts of thousands of people to secure the law change which has allowed these loving couples to finally become married couples".

“The experience of the last decade tells us that when we come together and stand up for what is right we will prevail. That’s a lesson to apply to all the other problems and inequalities we face in this society,” he said.

Gerry Moriarty

Gerry Moriarty

Gerry Moriarty is the former Northern editor of The Irish Times