October 22, 2019 at 11:30 am EST | by Michael K. Lavers
Northern Ireland marriage equality law takes effect
A law that extends marriage rights to same-sex couples and decriminalizes abortion in Northern Ireland took effect on Oct. 22, 2019. (Image by Andrein via Wikimedia Commons)

A law that extends marriage rights to same-sex couples in Northern Ireland took effect on Tuesday.

Northern Ireland’s Stormont Parliament has not met since the country’s coalition government collapsed in 2017. The British Parliament in July voted to force Northern Ireland to allow gays and lesbians to tie the knot and to decriminalize abortion.

Same-sex couples have been able to legally marry in England, Wales and Scotland since 2014.

Ireland in 2015 became the first country in the world to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples through a popular vote. The BBC reported the first same-sex weddings in Northern Ireland are expected to take place early next year.

“Change has finally come today and we are on the way to being equal with our fellow citizens,” tweeted Belfast Pride on Tuesday. “It has taken many years of work to get this far.”

Paul Twocock, chief executive of Stonewall, a British LGBTQ advocacy group, also applauded the law.

“LGBT people in Northern Ireland have waited for too long for marriage equality and we can’t wait to see same-sex couples across Northern Ireland marrying the person they love,” said Twocock in a statement.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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