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Church wedding ceremonies for same-sex couples now permitted in Northern Ireland

by Premier Journalist

Same-sex couples in Northern Ireland are permitted to register for religious wedding ceremonies for the first time from Tuesday. 

Churches will be given the choice to opt-in to facilitate same-sex weddings, with the UK Government saying that religious bodies cannot be "compelled by any means" to conduct the ceremonies. 

The change follows legislation introduced by Northern Ireland back in July.

Couples can give 28 days' notice of intent to engage in a religious ceremony, which means the first religious marriages could take place from 29th September. The first official same-sex marriage in the country took place in February after non-church ceremonies were legalised in January. 

Welcoming the news, Amnesty International Northern Ireland, who have been campaigning for the change over recent years, urged the Government to "finish the job" by "allowing couples in civil partnerships to convert to married status if they so wish".

Rev Chris Hudson, minister at All Souls' Belfast and Moderator of the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church of Ireland, said it is "great news for couples who wish to celebrate their marriage in church, embraced by family, friends and the love of God".

He added: "I have already been speaking to a number of couples who have been waiting for this day so they can finally have the church wedding that they have longed for. Autumn wedding bells will be ringing in Belfast.

“Until now, this legal right has been denied to churches, ministers like me, and same-sex couples of faith in Northern Ireland.

“I want to pay tribute to the activists of Love Equality, Amnesty International and the LGBT community, who have led such a positive, love-filled campaign and ensured that no-one would be left behind in the fight for equal rights for all.”

Rev Daniel Kane, Convener of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland’s Council for Public Affairs, said the traditional views of his denomination - that Biblical marriage is to be defined as being between one man and one woman - will remain unchanged.  

"The position of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland on marriage is well known," he said. "As a denomination we uphold the historic and Christian understanding that marriage is exclusively between one man and one woman." 

Kane added: "We have consistently opposed the redefinition of marriage, and therefore as a Church, we welcome the fact that the regulations acknowledge in law the right of PCI, and other religious bodies, to maintain its position and not undertake such ceremonies."




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