A month on from the first legal same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland, Laura Wylie reflects on what legal marriage means to her and her partner, Erica.
When we first think of marriage, I guess we think of all the lovely things that go along with it – making pancakes on a Sunday, watching our children take their first steps, growing old together side by side, or fighting over the remote.
But when we really consider what the current changes in law in Northern Ireland really mean for couples like us, it can be summed up by an equal right to the security, acceptance, and comfort which has been afforded to other couples for so long.
My partner and I have a child together and another on the way this May. For us, being able to provide them with a safe, loving home in which the relationship of their parents is as secure and as valid as anyone else’s is so important to us. The legal protections that come along with legal marriage cannot be ignored for us. For us it means protecting our children if anything was to happen to either of us. It means ensuring that we would each be protected if the worst were ever to happen to one of us.
Once you get the practicalities out of the way, you’ve got to consider what legal marriage for same-sex couples means for Northern Irish society. You have to think of young people that are now growing up in a world in which they can see themselves reflected and validated in those around them.
For me and my partner Erica, growing up gay meant that we grew up really not seeing ourselves in anyone around us. We’re hopeful that the change in law can provide both comfort to anyone struggling with their own sexual orientation, but also that it cements in wider society’s ideals the fact that same-sex couples’ relationships are just as valid and in no way lesser than those of ‘traditional’ heterosexual couples.
We cannot pretend though that this was a landslide win for the LGBT community of Northern Ireland. It didn’t happen, like in the Republic of Ireland, where it felt like an entire country stood up for their own community and our family members and friends. Rather, at times it felt we got this through the back door. That isn’t to diminish the amazing work that so many put in to making this a reality and nobody can deny that the fight was long, but we still have a way to go.
My case is an example of that. Erica and I had a civil partnership in June 2019 alongside a humanist ceremony, which means that, unfortunately the new changes in law still doesn’t extend to us just yet, as it’s not yet possible to convert a civil partnerships into a marriage.
And yet, that being said, seeing the first legal marriages take place gives me hope for the future. Hope for our children’s future. But also hope that Northern Ireland will continue this journey of becoming a more tolerant society, in which differences are celebrated and not used to divide us.
Humanists weddings are legally recognised in Northern Ireland, which means couples can get married in a humanist ceremony and complete legal documentation at the same time. (Marriage law is different in different parts of the UK and crown dependencies.) Humanist weddings gained legal recognition in Northern Ireland in 2018.
Northern Ireland Humanists celebrants, who are part of the Humanist Ceremonies™ network maintained by Humanists UK, are the only celebrants who are authorised to conduct legal humanist marriages in Northern Ireland. Be sure to get the real deal!
Our celebrants are trained to very high standards and accredited by Humanists UK to deliver unique, personal, meaningful wedding ceremonies for lovely couples in love. Every wedding is special, and every ceremony is our pleasure and privilege to conduct.
If you’re interested in a humanist wedding ceremony, you can find a celebrant near you via our website.