Judgment reserved on challenge to same-sex marriage ban

Partners Sharon Sickles and Grainne Close along with Henry and Chris Flanagan-Kane leave the High Court in Belfast after a previous hearing
Partners Sharon Sickles and Grainne Close along with Henry and Chris Flanagan-Kane leave the High Court in Belfast after a previous hearing

Judgment has been reserved in a renewed legal challenge to the ban on same-sex marriage in Nothern Ireland.

Two couples are attempting to overturn a previous ruling that the prohibition does not breach their human rights.

But the Attorney General, John Larkin QC, argued that they lack standing to bring the case because they were not victims of an unlawful act.

The Court of Appeal is now expected to give a decision sometime early next year.

Unlike England, Scotland, Wales and the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland has still not legalised same-sex weddings.

But Grainne Close and her partner Shannon Sickles, along with Chris and Henry Flanagan-Kane, claim they are being subjected to discrimination based on their sexuality.

In 2005 they became the first couples in the UK to enter civil partnerships, cementing their relationships in ceremonies at Belfast City Hall.

Last year a High Court judge dismissed the case after finding that it was a matter for legislators rather than the judiciary.

Lawyers for Ms Close, Ms Sickles and the Flanagan Kanes are appealing his verdict, insisting that the state’s failure to include the people of Northern Ireland in same-sex marriage legislation breaches their human rights.

Prior to the collapse of devolution MLAs held five votes on the issue – with a narrow majority in favour of the move on the last occasion in November 2015.

Following closing submissions Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan, sitting with Lord Justices Stephens and Treacy, reserved judgment.