New legislation comes into effect today, December 7, in Northern Ireland which enables couples in a civil partnership or marriage registered in the region to convert a same-sex civil partnership to a marriage or an opposite-sex marriage into a civil partnership.
“Today is an important milestone in the campaign for marriage equality," Conor Murphy, Northern Ireland’s Finance Minister, said today, December 7.
“There are over 1,300 same-sex civil partnerships here. 17 couples are expected to convert their civil partnerships to marriages today [December 7] with a total of 32 planned for this week.
“As a gesture of support, I have waived the conversion fee for those couples and for all couples who wish to convert their civil partnership to a marriage for a full year.
Minister Murphy added: “I would like to congratulate those couples who are converting their partnerships today and wish them a very happy life together.”
📹 Finance Minister @conormurphysf has welcomed that same sex couples can now convert their civil partnership to marriage from today, saying today is an important milestone in the campaign for marriage equality. Read more: https://t.co/gFqVndI5RF pic.twitter.com/NE2NXRzmNG— Dept of Finance (@dptfinance) December 7, 2020
It only became legal for same-sex couples to get married in Northern Ireland earlier in 2020. The matter of same-sex marriage 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.
In July 2019, with no Assembly in place for more than two years in Northern Ireland, backbench members of the British Labour party argued that the matter of same-sex marriage in the region could no longer be ignored. Labour MP Conor McGinn, a native of Co Armagh, introduced the same-sex marriage bill which ultimately passed the UK’s House of Commons with a vote of 383 to 73.
Same-sex couples in Northern Ireland were able to register for marriage beginning in January 2020, with the first marriage ceremonies occurring in February 2020. However, couples who had already sought a civil partnership were originally excluded from the reforms.
That changed when on October 22, Love Equality NI, which campaigned for equal civil marriage for same-sex couples in Northern Ireland, announced that the law had officially been changed to permit same-sex couples to convert their civil partnerships into marriages.
Love Equality NI said at the time: "The law change happened with the introduction of new regulations in Parliament this morning by Northern Ireland Minister Robin Walker.
"‘The Marriage and Civil Partnership (Northern Ireland) (No. 2) Regulations 2020’ is the final regulatory change necessary to permit full marriage equality in the region, following the historic legalisation of same-sex civil marriage (13 January), then same-sex religious marriage (1 September), which were secured after a long campaign by the Love Equality coalition."
The group added: "Couples in civil partnerships will have a three-year window during which they can convert to married status through a simple administrative process. Fees will be waived during the first year."
MARRIAGE EQUALITY FULLY ACHIEVED IN NORTHERN IRELAND AS CIVIL PARTNERSHIP CONVERSION LEGALISED Law change today means...Posted by Love Equality NI on Thursday, October 22, 2020
On December 7, Brandon Lewis, Northern Ireland’s Secretary of State, said he was "delighted" with the change in the law:
I am delighted that from today couples in Northern Ireland will be able to convert existing civil partnerships into a marriage should they wish to, given the changes we made to the law. 🏳️🌈❤️ #LoveIsLove— Brandon Lewis (@BrandonLewis) December 7, 2020
Michelle O’Neill, Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister, also offered her best wishes to all of the couples:
Today is a momentous day for LGBT couples in the North
From today, same sex civil partnerships can be converted into marriage
All love is equal and this is a recognition of that
Today belongs to those who campaigned for decades for equality
My best wishes to all couples 🏳️🌈❤️— Michelle O’Neill (@moneillsf) December 7, 2020
Amanda McGurk and Cara McCann, who both campaigned alongside Love Equality NI, were the first people to convert their same-sex civil partnership into a marriage on December 7.
Both of the women expressed their excitement on Monday:
Information on how to convert a civil partnership into a marriage, or convert a marriage into a civil partnership, in Northern Ireland is available here from Northern Ireland Direct.