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First Same-Sex Couple Marries in Northern Ireland

Robyn Peoples and Sharni Edwards tied the knot on Feb. 11 in a historic ceremony for the country of Northern Ireland. This comes 28 days after Northern Ireland legalized same-sex marriage.

The couple didn’t intend to be the first couple to marry. The ceremony was initially supposed to be a civil ceremony but after same-sex marriage was legalized, the couple decided to tie the knot. The ceremony took place at a hotel in Carrickfergus, County Antrim.

This day is a celebration for many who have struggled to gain the same rights as heterosexual folks. The Northern Ireland Director of Amnesty International, Patrick Corrigan said, “Sharni and Robyn’s wedding is a landmark moment for equality in Northern Ireland. We wish them all the love and happiness for their married life together,” and “People in Northern Ireland have had to fight longer, harder and overcome more obstacles to win equal marriage than anywhere else in the UK or Ireland. We are proud of the LGBT community here and the thousands who marched alongside them to ensure this day became a reality.”

eat drink and be married sign
Ben Rosett

Sara Canning is also celebrating, but also grieving. Canning’s partner, Lyra McKee, died on Apr. 18, 2019 after being fatally shot during riots in the Creggan area of Derry. Canning said, “This really means so much and has brought me some much-needed light in what has been a dark year,” about Peoples and Edwards nuptial.

The couple also made sure to thank those who fought for their right to get married. This includes Love Equality, an advocacy group in Northern Ireland that has fought long and hard for the legalization of same-sex marriage. The couple says, “we are so grateful to the thousands of people who marched for our freedoms, to the Love Equality campaign who led the way and the politicians who voted to change the law.”

Northern Ireland legalized same-sex marriage in January of 2020, while the majority of the United Kingdom legalized same-sex marriage in 2014. This means that same-sex marriage is legal in all parts of the United Kingdom. However, it is only legal in nine out of fourteen British Overseas Territories.

girl holding pride flag with blue sky
Stavrialena Gontzou

There are currently 28 countries in the world that legalize same-sex marriage, this includes the U.S., Australia, Taiwan, etc. The first country to legalize same-sex marriage was the Netherlands in 2001.

Although same-sex marriage has started becoming legalized in different countries, many people of the LGBTQ+ community still face discrimination. Even in the United States where we have marriage equality, 28 states still do not have legislation that protects members of the LGBTQ+ country from discrimination. In 12 countries around the world, sexual activity between members of the same sex is criminalized by death.

Although Peoples and Edwards didn’t intend to be the first couple, their marriage will always be historical for Northern Ireland. Edwards says, “We didn’t set out to make history – we just fell in love.”

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Melissa Kuntzman is a senior double majoring in Editing, Writing and the Media and Political Science. When she's not reading for class, you can find her binge-watching Korean dramas or perfecting her homemade Mac & Cheese recipe.
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