- 17 Aug 17
A Northern Irish judge has rejected two challenges to the same-sex ban in the country.
Mr Justice O'Hara said that it was ultimately up to the Stormont Assembly to decide on issues of social policy and that same-sex marriage fell under their remit.
The judge also said that the verdict did not restrict the rights of same sex couples in Northern Ireland.
According to BBC NI, Mr Justice O'Hara said: "It is not at all difficult to understand how gay men and lesbians who have suffered discrimination, rejection and exclusion feel so strongly about the maintenance in Northern Ireland of the barrier to same sex marriage.
"However, the judgement which I have to reach is not based on social policy but on the law."
The first case, known as petition X, involved two men who married in London in 2014 and were attempting to have their union recognised in Northern Ireland.
Their marriage was changed to a civil partnership in law when they moved to the region.
The second case involved two couples in civil partnerships, Grainne Close and Shannon Sickles, and Chris and Henry Flanagan-Kane, who argued that the ban breaches their human rights.
During the joint challenge to the law in Northern Ireland, the couple's lawyers argued that the ban breaches Article Eight of the European Convention on Human Rights, by denying respect for their private and family lives.
But a lawyer for Stormont's Department of Finance and Personnel (DFP) countered that the ban was not a breach of human rights and that civil partnerships already met the minimum requirements set out under human rights law.
Stormont MLAs have voted on legalising same-sex marriages in Northern Ireland five times. During the fifth vote in November 2015, MLAs voted in favour of legalisation for the first time, with the slim majority of 53 votes to 52. However, the Democratic Unionist Party used a petition of concern to block the motion and prevent any change in the law. The issue of the introduction of same-sex marriages is currently one of the sticking points for Northern Ireland's main political parties going back into government.
Same-sex marriages are legal in every other part of the UK, and in the Republic of Ireland, but not in Northern Ireland.
Prominent figures, politicians and legal representatives in Northern Ireland have been reacting to the rule throughout the day:
— Ciaran Moynagh ⚖ (@CiaranMoy) August 17, 2017
Northern Ireland remains a place apart. No British rights for British citizens here. Shame on all who sustain this.
— Sophie Long (@SophieLong01) August 17, 2017
— Patrick Corrigan (@PatrickCorrigan) August 17, 2017
Disappointing result from High Court today but only a matter of time before equal marriage becomes the law. No return to Stormont without it pic.twitter.com/YYBcFyVDqN
— Daithí McKay (@daithimckay) August 17, 2017