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Northern Ireland is the last jurisdiction in the UK where same-sex couples can’t get married, a fact laid even more bare when same-sex marriage is possible just across the border in the Republic.On Thursday, the movement for marriage equality in Northern Ireland faced a significant setback when Mr Justice O’Hara ruled against three couples in two cases attempting to progress same-sex marriage through the courts.In the judgment on Petition X, Mr Justice O’Hara referenced the frustration felt across Northern Ireland by the LGBT community and civil rights campaigners, “To the frustration of supporters of same-sex marriage, the Assembly has not yet passed into law any measure to recognise and introduce same-sex marriage,” the judge said in the judgment.“Their frustration is increased by the fact that the Assembly has voted by a majority in favour of same-sex marriage, but by reason of special voting arrangements which reflect the troubled past of this State, that majority has not been sufficient to give the vote effect in law.” It’s clear now that the route to marriage equality is through the Assembly or through appealing both judgments.

Shortly after the judgment, he said the judgment had “got everyone by surprise”.There have been five attempts to pass marriage equality in Northern Ireland through the Assembly.An attempt in November 2015 was supported by a majority of representatives – 53 in favour and 51 against – but vetoed by the DUP using a “petition of concern” mechanism.Initially, Northern Ireland was ahead of the Republic of Ireland regarding relationship recognition for same-sex couples.Civil partnerships have been available to same-sex couples in Northern Ireland since 2005, after the UK introduced the Civil Partnership Act 2004.

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