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Northern Ireland High Court Upholds Marriage Ban

Northern Ireland demonstrators

A justice says it's not up to him to change the law, but to legislators.

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Northern Ireland's High Court has dismissed two cases challenging the nation's ban on same-sex marriage, saying the ban does not violate the rights of same-sex couples and that any change must be made legislatively.

"It is not at all difficult to understand how gay men and lesbians who have suffered discrimination, rejection and exclusion feel so strongly about the maintenance in Northern Ireland of the barrier to same-sex marriage," High Court Justice John O'Hara said in announcing his verdict Thursday, according to the U.K.'s Independent. But the barrier is not one he can bring down, he said.

"The judgment which I have to reach is not based on social policy but on the law," O'Hara said. Any changes to the law must be made by the Northern Ireland Assembly, the nation's national legislative body. Northern Ireland is the only portion of the United Kingdom without marriage equality, lagging behind England, Wales, and Scotland.

O'Hara heard two similar cases together. One was brought by two men who married in England in 2014 but saw their union changed to a civil partnership when they moved to Northern Ireland. They sued to have it recognized as a marriage. The other involved two couples in civil partnerships who said the denial of marriage equality violates their rights under the European Convention on Human Rights. Northern Ireland has offered civil partnerships, conferring some of the rights of marriage, since 2005.

There have been five attempts to pass marriage equality legislation in Northern Ireland, all blocked by the conservative Democratic Unionist Party, the Independent notes. Party leader Arlene Foster has vowed to continue resistance. "I could not care less what people get up to in terms of their sexuality, that's not a matter for me -- when it becomes a matter for me is when people try to redefine marriage," she said earlier this year, according to the paper.

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Trudy Ring

Trudy Ring is The Advocate’s senior politics editor and copy chief. She has been a reporter and editor for daily newspapers and LGBTQ+ weeklies/monthlies, trade magazines, and reference books. She is a political junkie who thinks even the wonkiest details are fascinating, and she always loves to see political candidates who are groundbreaking in some way. She enjoys writing about other topics as well, including religion (she’s interested in what people believe and why), literature, theater, and film. Trudy is a proud “old movie weirdo” and loves the Hollywood films of the 1930s and ’40s above all others. Other interests include classic rock music (Bruce Springsteen rules!) and history. Oh, and she was a Jeopardy! contestant back in 1998 and won two games. Not up there with Amy Schneider, but Trudy still takes pride in this achievement.
Trudy Ring is The Advocate’s senior politics editor and copy chief. She has been a reporter and editor for daily newspapers and LGBTQ+ weeklies/monthlies, trade magazines, and reference books. She is a political junkie who thinks even the wonkiest details are fascinating, and she always loves to see political candidates who are groundbreaking in some way. She enjoys writing about other topics as well, including religion (she’s interested in what people believe and why), literature, theater, and film. Trudy is a proud “old movie weirdo” and loves the Hollywood films of the 1930s and ’40s above all others. Other interests include classic rock music (Bruce Springsteen rules!) and history. Oh, and she was a Jeopardy! contestant back in 1998 and won two games. Not up there with Amy Schneider, but Trudy still takes pride in this achievement.