NI gay couple 'must separate for Scotland marriage'

Yesterday I received a call from a couple who had got married through civil ceremony some time ago in N Ireland.  The enquiry was whether they could convert their civil partnership (marriage) to a marriage.

Interestingly enough a BBC article from January 15, 2015 covered this situation in relation to a Scottish couple who had got hitched in a civil ceremony in N Ireland, and wished to do the same thing – I republish the article for information, and to highlight the problems that will continue to occur now that we have devolved governments within the United Kingdom:

NI gay couple ‘must separate for Scotland marriage’

Holding hands

A gay couple who wanted to convert their Northern Ireland civil partnership into a marriage in Scotland say they were told they would first have to live apart for two years.

In Scotland, civil partnerships can now be converted to a marriage.

A new law came into effect in December.

The couple, who did not want their surnames used, said they were initially told they could convert their civil partnership to a marriage.

They then had set a date for the wedding, they said.

Belfast-born Sean met his partner John, who is from Scotland, in 2000, and they had a civil partnership in Northern Ireland several years later.

“A lot of John’s family couldn’t attend, so we thought for our 15th anniversary we’d get married,” he told BBC Radio Ulster’s Talkback programme on Monday.


John said: “I called the registrar in Inverness to ask them if it was possible to convert our civil partnership to a marriage, and we were advised that it was no problem whatsoever.”

The couple had begun to make plans to get married and had set the date for last Friday, but the registrar contacted them to say that they could not legally marry after all.

The first civil partnership ceremony took place in Belfast in 2005, provoking both celebration and protest. The couple were Shannon Sickles and Grainne Close.





“It transpired that it’s actually not legal to change our civil partnership into a marriage in Scotland, because we had a civil partnership in Northern Ireland,” said Sean.

“The advice we were given was that we could dissolve our civil partnership – get divorced to get married – and we’d have to live apart for maybe two years. It was just ludicrous.”

Tom French, from the Equality Network, which ran the campaign for same-sex marriage in Scotland, said: “The current situation in Scotland is that any couple can get married here, although if you are in a civil partnership the only people who can get that converted to a marriage currently are those who had a civil partnership in Scotland.

“The government are looking at this – there was an amendment to the bill made that the Equality Network sought and won that means that soon, hopefully by the summer, couples from other parts of the UK should be able to convert their civil partnership.”

Sean said he hoped the law in Northern Ireland could be changed to allow same-sex marriage.

“If the legislation did change in Scotland and we were able to go over and get married, it would only count in Scotland – if we came back here it wouldn’t be recognised,” he said.

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