First same-sex marriages in NI likely to happen by Valentine’s Day 2020

The first same-sex marriages in Northern Ireland are likely to taking place by Valentine’s Day 2020, the Secretary of State has said.

Julian Smith said he also plans for the new legal framework for access to abortion services in the region to be in place by March 31.

He was speaking just hours before new legislation is set to take effect on both same-sex marriage and abortion in the region.

The legislation was passed by Westminster in July and would take effect by October 21 if the Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive had not been reformed.

Mr Smith told the House of Commons on Monday that consultation will open “very soon”.

“A new legal framework for lawful access to abortion services in Northern Ireland will be put in place by March 31 2020 in line with the 2018 UN Cedaw (Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women) report.

“I will be consulting on the new framework very soon,” he said.

“On same-sex marriage and opposite-sex civil partnerships, regulations are to be made no later than January 13 2020.

“There are two key areas we are going to consult on. How to allow for religious same-sex marriage ceremonies, and also the issue of conversion from civil partnership to marriage and vice-versa.”

He added: “At the latest, the first civil same-sex marriages will take place on the week of Valentine’s Day 2020.”

Following a failed attempt by the DUP to revive Stormont to stop the liberalisation of abortion laws, Mr Smith said the Northern Ireland Assembly “can influence” but was firm that the law has changed.

“We need to be clear that the law from tomorrow has changed across those two areas, and we can, obviously we will hear the views of the Assembly, and we will work with them, but the law, from tomorrow, has changed,” he said.

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