Following the legalisation of same-sex civil and religious marriages in January and September of this year. Northern Ireland has now made the final historic step in fully realising marriage equality with new laws announced on October 22 allowing more than 1000 same-sex couples to convert civil partnerships to marriages.

Addressing the Northern Ireland Assembly, Minister Robin Walker said of the amendments, “It is right that all couples in Northern Ireland now have access to the equivalent legal relationships and associated rights, protections and entitlements, as couples living in the rest of the UK, and I am pleased that we have been able to bring forward the necessary regulations to make this possible.”

Walker went on to say that, “the government had fulfilled all of its commitments relating to same-sex marriage” and added that “any further changes to marriage and civil partnership law will be a matter for the NI Executive and Assembly to take forward.”

The news comes in the wake of a long-fought battle for marriage equality in Northern Ireland, led by the Love Equality coalition.

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 Welcoming the news, Patrick Corrigan, Director of Amnesty International Northern Ireland who are part of the Love Equality coalition, said “This law change is the final piece of the jigsaw in bringing marriage equality to Northern Ireland. 

“It’s a huge day of celebration. We fought to change the law so it would cherish all couples and all families equally and now we have achieved that – first with civil marriage, then religious marriage and now finally, with civil partnership conversion.

“We want to thank all our supporters at Westminster and Stormont, including Ministers and officials, who helped us to deliver this change. And to all the couples, their families, friends and the wider community in Northern Ireland who gave this campaign unstoppable momentum – this win is yours.”

Coming into action on December 7, the regulations will provide a three-year window to convert an existing civil partnership into a marriage, through a simple administrative process, with fees to be waived in the first year.

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