Northern Ireland Legalizes Abortion and Same-Sex Marriage

The first weddings are due to take place on Valentine's Day 2020.

Northern Ireland is the only part of the U.K. that doesn’t allow same-sex couples to marry—but that is about to change.

Abortion and same-sex marriage have been legalized in Northern Ireland after Parliament ruled that the country’s 158-year-old abortion laws are “incompatible with the United Kingdom’s human rights commitments.”

Back in July British lawmakers overwhelmingly voted to legalize same-sex marriage and abortion in Northern Ireland as long as the region’s governing coalition remained paralyzed.

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According to The New York Times, the legalization of abortion and same-sex marriage occurred due to “an amendment to a routine bill on governance of Northern Ireland that Parliament passed in July amid a power vacuum created by the collapse of the region’s governing assembly nearly three years ago.”

A ban on abortion—including cases involving rape and incest—has been in effect in Northern Ireland since 1861. As for marriage equality, same-sex couples will now be able to give 28 days notice to marry starting on January 13, 2020, with the first weddings to take place on Valentine’s Day.

Progressive politicians have tried multiple times to pass equal marriage legislation, most recently in November 2015. The bill won the popular vote, but it was nixed by the ultra-conservative Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which issued a “petition of concern” killing the measure.

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The DUP was founded in 1977 by Reverend Ian Paisley, whose “Save Ulster from Sodomy!” campaign helped to keep homosexuality illegal in Northern Ireland until 1982.

“The DUP have abused the petition of concern to block this vote and are now ignoring the will of the assembly and the people of Northern Ireland,” Rainbow Project director John O’Doherty said at the time.

The amendment goes into effect at midnight on Monday, October 21.

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