Irish Republican News · December 19, 2005
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Ireland’s first gay wedding

The first Irish gay couple to form a civil partnership hope “many more” will follow. Grainne Close and Shannon Sickels exchanged vows in a private ceremony at Belfast City Hall before emerging to the cheers of supporters, the crush of photographers and opposition from hymn-singing protesters.

The couple took advantage of new British legislation and the North’s shorter notice period for a legal gay union relative to England, Scotland or Wales. There remains no option for gay marriage in the 26 Counties.

“For us, this is about making a choice to have our civil rights acknowledged and respected and protected as any human being,” said Ms Close.

Her partner said: “We could not be here without the hard work of many queer activists and individuals from the queer community and we feel very privileged and blessed to be able to be here doing this.”

She hoped many more couples would follow their example. “This is for all the people who went before us and this is for protection,” she said.

Rita Wild from the Norh’s Lesbian Advocacy Services Initiative said the South now needs similar legislation.

“What will happen when a woman from the south falls in love with a woman from Northern Ireland and they celebrate a civil partnership - will their commitment be recognised legally in the south?”.

About 50 protesters, including several clergymen from Ian Paisley’s Free Presbyterian church, gathered at the back gates to quote from the Old Testament. They hoisted banners voicing opposition and sang hymns.

Mingling with them were supporters from trade unions, civil liberties groups and others waving rainbow flags.

Following the ceremony, the couple emerged beaming, waving their rings and posing briefly for the cameras before disappearing into a waiting black taxi which was adorned with yellow ribbons.

“We are delighted,” they said. “Here’s to many more.”

Some 700 such unions are scheduled to take place throughout Britain in the coming weeks. High-profile ceremonies involving Elton John and George Michael are expected to be held before Christmas.

Derry City Council has confirmed its first ceremony will take place on Friday.

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© 2005 Irish Republican News