Northern Ireland announced that same-sex marriage will officially be legal by September this year, as confirmations on the finalised regulations were put in place in Westminister this week.
Same-sex unions were legalised in the country last January, aligning Northern Ireland with the rest of the United Kingdom (England, Scotland and Wales) where same-sex marriages have been legal since 2014.
However, there are still exemptions that protect other religious organisations that do not allow or recognise such unions in accordance to their faith.
According to the UK government, these religious organisations are not in any form compelled to perform such services if it directly conflicts with their religious beliefs. This decision came after an open consultation with the Northern Ireland Office brought on the matter of extending the provision to religious services and ceremonies in churches, religious halls, and buildings owned by any church.
In light of this new legislation, couples intending to marry may submit their 28 day notice of intent beginning on the 1st of September.
In a bid to protect religious bodies, the legislation also highlights the same equality law extends to religious officiants who shall not be held accountable for unlawful discrimination if they refuse to perform and solemnise such ceremonies.
This has been an ongoing issue with the LGBTQ community, as couples feel it is unfair for them not to have the option of having a religious ceremony as it curtails their freedom of exploring and practising their faith.
From this point, same sex supporters are urging the government to allow same sex couples in existing civil partnerships to convert to a married status.
In a study conducted by the Dr. Annette Erlangsen from the Danish Research Institute of Suicide Prevention, data shows a decline in suicide cases across other European countries that allowed for same sex marriage.
The data reveals a 46% drop in suicide cases among people in same-sex marriages when numbers recorded in Denmark and Sweden were compared during the inclusive years of 1989 to 2022 and 2003 – 2016.
Dr. Erlangsen says, “Being married is protective against suicide, legalising same-sex marriage and other supportive legislative measures – they might actually reduce stigma around sexual minorities.”