‘The love that two men or two women share is never a threat to a society:’ Gay couple’s powerful reaction to court ruling that their marriage is invalid in Northern Ireland

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An LGBT+ protester faces religious conservatives at a Belfast pride event.
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Getty Images

A court in Northern Ireland has rejected a couple’s plea to have their same-sex marriage recognised, asserting again that there are no exceptions to the territory’s ban on equal marriage.

A judge ruled that two men, who got married legally in London, could only be considered to be in a civil partnership while they are in Northern Ireland.

The couple, who have not made their names public, tried to have their union recognised as a full marriage on human rights grounds, but failed to persuade the Belfast High Court.

When their petition was rejected on Thursday afternoon, they gave this powerful statement via their lawyer. It challenges the idea that gay marriage is a “threat to society,” an argument often put forward by opponents.

Here’s a video of the statement:

Ciarán Moynagh a solicitorfor the couple from outside No who want marriage recognised herereads a statement on #marriageequailityruling pic.twitter.com/YG1hFjAfNH

#marriageequailitypic.twitter.com/YG1hFjAfNHAugust17, 2017

And the lawyer’s words in full (emphasis ours):

“We want our vows to be recognised in Northern Ireland because the traditional values associated with marriage are important to us.

“Of course we are disappointed by today’s ruling. What it shows is that more work needs to be done to explain a truth that to us is self-evident: The love that two men or two women share is never a threat to society.

“In fact, the world could do with a little more love. Today we are calling on the Mums, Dads siblings, and friends of the LGBT+ people to no longer remain on the sidelines.

“If you too feel disappointed today, speak write or tweet to our political leaders reminding them that most people in Northern Ireland support same-sex marriage.”

Under the terms of the UK’s political settlement with Northern Ireland, same-sex marriage is a matter for the devolved political assembly. Northern Ireland has consistently chosen not to follow the rest of the country in legalising it.

In 2015, a majority of assembly members (AMs) did vote to legalise it, but were blocked by the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), who are currently in a loose coalition propping up the Conservative government in Westminster.

May DUP

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The prime minister, Theresa May (L) with the DUP leader Arlene Foster
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Reuters

Some 53 AMs backed a same-sex marriage bill at the last vote, while only 52 opposed. But the DUP stopped the motion from passing by using an effective veto, known as a “petition of concern” to strike down the bill.

When the petition is made in the assembly, the majority required increases from 50% to 60%, and also requires a minimum threshold of support from both unionist and nationalist parties, giving each side an effective veto.

Mr Justice O’Hara, the judge who made the ruling on Thursday, said his hands were tied and that only politicians can allow gay marriage in Northern Ireland, not the courts.

In a statement accompanying the ruling, he said:

“It is not at all difficult to understand how gay men and lesbians who have suffered discrimination, rejection, and exclusion feel so strongly about the maintenance in Northern Ireland of the barrier to same sex marriage.

“However, the judgment which I have to reach is not based on social policy but on the law.”