High Court Finds Same-Sex Marriage Ban Not in Violation of Human Rights

Two cases calling for recognition of same-sex marriage have been dismissed in Northern Ireland’s High Court.

Justice O’Hara dismissed the cases on the basis that the ban on same-sex marriage was not in breach of human rights under the European Convention on Human Rights, stating:

“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. However, the judgment which I have to reach is not based on social policy but on the law.”

Due to an anonymity order, the first case involving two men married in London in 2014 was known as Petition X. The two men were demanding their union be recognised after their marriage status was changed to a civil partnership in law upon their return to Northern Ireland.

The second case involved two partnerships; Grainne Close and Shannon Sickles, and Henry and Chris Flanagan-Kane. Both argued that, as long as the prohibition on same-sex marriage remained, their human rights would be in breach.

Coincidentally both couples were among the first to enter into civil partnerships when Northern Ireland became the first part of the UK to implement this in 2005.

They argued that the ban upheld by Stormont’s Department of Finance and Personnel, which regulates Northern Ireland’s marriage laws, infringes their rights to family life and marriage under the Convention on Human Rights.

Shannon Sickles has since pledged to appeal the ruling after her partner, Grainne Close, revealed that the couple’s children will continue suffering as a result of the decision.

The couple involved in Petition X released a statement voicing their dismay, stating “what it shows is that more work needs to be done to explain a truth that, to us, is self-evident – the love two men or two women share is never a threat to society, in fact the world could do with a little more love today.”

All couples involved in the decision called for supporters to petition the government of Northern Ireland to amend the laws.

Phoebe Egoroff

Founder and of Jurist International, a website focusing on the latest developments in international human rights and criminal law.