Delays to converting civil partnerships to marriage unnecessary, says McAllister

There should be no unnecessary delay in allowing same-sex couples here the opportunity to convert their civil partnerships into marriage, Alliance Councillor Nuala McAllister has said.

Councillor McAllister was speaking after LGBT campaigners said they would start legal action against the UK Government to allow same-sex couple in Northern Ireland to have religious marriages or convert civil partnerships into marriage without further delay.

The first same-sex marriages in Northern Ireland are due to take place in February, however under current plans, those in civil partnerships will not be able to convert to marriages. In Great Britain, couples can convert to marriage for a fee. The Government has said it will introduce that and religious ceremonies later next year following consultation.

“Same-sex couples in Northern Ireland should be afforded the same rights as those across the rest of the UK,” said Councillor McAllister.

“However, the situation at present means same-sex couples here who have already taken part in a civil partnership will not be able to change to a marriage at the start of next year.  These unnecessary delays are not good enough.

“Alliance has met with NIO officials repeatedly and raised this issue, with the Government giving the impression no consultation was necessary, as extensive conversations had already taken place, in particular around protections for churches.

“The question needs to be asked as to why the delays are now happening. If the Government indeed wants to consult on this matter, why hasn’t it started already? Same sex couples here deserve equality and that includes legalising for all forms of marriage. Our Party Leader Naomi Long has now written to the Secretary of State to clarify intentions and speed up the process.”