Northern Ireland

Gay marriage: Two NI couples win permission to challenge NI ban in court

Grainne Close and Shannon Sickles Image copyright PAcemaker
Image caption Grainne Close and Shannon Sickles were the first couple in the UK to celebrate a civil partnership in 2005

Two gay couples have taken the first step in a legal challenge to the ban on same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland.

The High Court granted permission for Grainne Close, her partner Shannon Sickles, and Chris and Henry Flanagan-Kane to seek a judicial review.

Ten years ago in Belfast, they became the first same-sex couples in the UK to enter into civil partnerships.

However Northern Ireland is now the only place in the UK and Ireland that has not legalised same-sex marriage.

The Northern Ireland Assembly has debated the issue four times and rejected it each time.

Image copyright PAcemaker
Image caption Christopher and Henry Flanaghan Kane are also seeking to challenge Northern Ireland's gay marriage ban

At the High Court in Belfast on Friday, a barrister for Stormont's Department of Finance and Personnel (DFP) argued that a similar case is currently going through the Family Division.

It involves a gay couple who want their marriage in England to be legally recognised in Northern Ireland.

But a lawyer representing Ms Close and the others involved in the judicial review case, said she was seeking to have the legislation completely struck down.

The challenge is based on claims that the ban discriminates against gay and lesbian couples.

The judge ruled that their case had enough merit to proceed to a full hearing, based on submissions already before him.

He said: "Rather than waste everybody's time by pretending otherwise, I propose to grant leave which means the applicant has an arguable case."

The case is due back again before the courts in September.

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