Same-sex couples will be able to get married legally in Northern Ireland for the first time from February 13

The week containing Valentine’s Day will be especially special for same-sex couples in Northern Ireland as the first legal same-sex marriages will begin to take place.

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From Monday, January 13, same-sex couples will be able to register for marriage in the state, meaning the first ceremonies can take place a month later.

Those already married will now have that marriage recognized, but those in a civil partnership will not be able to convert it to marriage at this stage.

The matters of same-sex marriage and abortion had previously been deemed to be a “devolved matter” in British Parliament, meaning it should be left up to Northern Ireland’s Assembly to decide.

However, with no Assembly in place for more than two years in Northern Ireland, backbench members of the British Labour Party argued that the two issues could no longer be ignored.

In July 2019, Labour MP Conor McGinn, a native of Co. Armagh, introduced the same-sex marriage bill, and MP Stella Creasy, also a member of Labour, introduced the abortion bill. 

The U.K.’s House of Commons voted 383 votes to 73 votes in favor of marriage equality, and 332 votes to 99 votes in favor of abortion rights. The bill was to be implemented in the instance of no Assembly having been formed by a deadline of October 21. 

On October 21, when it became certain that a new Assembly would not be enacted in time, MP Creasy simply tweeted an emoji of a thumbs-up with the hashtag #TheNorthIsNow.

Read More: Northern Ireland reacts to the legalization of same-sex marriage, abortion

While the Northern Ireland Assembly at Stormont returned after a three-year absence last Saturday, the October 21 deadline had already been missed allowing for same-sex marriage to become legal on January 13. 

Speaking to BBC News today, McGinn said "everyone who values equality, love and respect can celebrate today.

"It's a good day for Northern Ireland, an important day for citizens' rights across these islands and an exciting day for same-sex couples who can now register to marry."

Same-sex marriages have been allowed in England, Scotland, and Wales since 2014, but Stormont did not legalize them.

The Republic of Ireland legalized same-sex marriage in 2015 after a historic referendum saw the Yes campaign winning by a landslide. 

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