Couples in Northern Ireland rejoice following the news that gay marriage has been approved after Westminster MPs used their prerogative to pass the law on behalf of the region. This led to same-sex couples across the nation celebrating with mock wedding receptions in the knowledge that they can now embark on plans for their very own big day. Civil partnerships have been legal in Northern Ireland since 2015, meaning that lesbian and gay couples could have formal recognition in terms of taxation, inheritance and other legal rights. However, civil partnerships are devoid of full constitutional equality, lacking the clarity and constitutional protection that comes with marriage, not to mention that a civil partnership is purely a legal agreement whereas marriage is symbolic of a loving, committed relationship, and allows a couple to marry in a religious place of worship.
Christopher and Henry Flanagan-Kane were among the first to have a civil partnership in Northern Ireland when it became legal to do so. The two have a son and are thrilled that he will be able to live in a world where equal rights are continuing to fall in place. Christopher said, ‘It’s not just about me and Henry. We have a son as well, and it is about his rights when he grows up, to grow up in a world where he is not equal just depending on sexuality. We had to grow up in the world like that, denied our rights. We just want the same rights as everyone else, to be like heterosexual couples.’
The news is a sign of acceptance and a huge step forward, showing the world that people should be allowed to love who they want and that equality is a human right and not a privilege. The happiness and celebration seen en masse amongst the LGBT community in Northern Ireland since this announcement is a testament to the power of having the freedom to love without restriction.
If you are considering coming out as gay, please know that it is okay to do it in a way that feels authentic to you. In a Tweet for National Coming Out Day, my friend Harry Waller said ‘coming out is different for everyone who does it and what is right for one person may not be right for another. For me, I am so glad I got to tell my father who I was before he died and know that he accepted me and was proud of me. I wish he could have got to meet my wonderful husband. But, at least because I came out when I did, I never have to wonder what he would have felt about it. To anyone struggling with secrets and hiding – take ur (sic) time and do it when you’re ready to, but know it’s good this side.’
May Northern Ireland now be amongst the pioneering countries who are blazing the way for equal rights. After all, to quote Lin-Manuel Miranda, love is love is love.
Love Conquers All!