The Legalisation of Same-Sex Marriage in Northern Ireland

Conor McCormick, Thomas Stewart

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The saga which led to the legalisation of same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland offers some important lessons about the processes of law-making for that jurisdiction, together with broader lessons about how the European Convention on Human Rights could be applied in strategic litigation elsewhere. This commentary analyses four episodes in that saga. It begins by evaluating several failed attempts to achieve legalisation at the Northern Ireland Assembly, before considering two legal challenges which also failed in the High of Court of Northern Ireland. The developments which eventually led to legal change through the Parliament of the United Kingdom are assessed thereafter, followed by an appraisal of the most significant legal features in a set of judgments handed down by the Court of Appeal in Northern Ireland shortly afterwards. It is concluded, in particular, that lessons in connection with how petitions of concern are deployed in the devolved legislature, as well as lessons about how the prohibition on discrimination contained in Article 14 of the Convention has been interpreted, are deserving of wider circulation and appreciation among LGBT rights campaigners in Northern Ireland and beyond.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)557-570
Number of pages14
JournalNorthern Ireland Legal Quarterly
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 09 Jul 2020


  • Northern Ireland
  • Same-Sex Marriage
  • Human Rights
  • LGBT


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