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High Court dismisses recognition of same sex marriage petition


X [2017] NIFam 12

On the 17th August 2017, judgment was handed down in Re X [2017], a case to which the PILS Project gave financial support. The High Court decided that the rights of a man who entered a same sex marriage in England had not been breached because such a marriage is only recognised as a civil partnership in Northern Ireland.


The applicant (referred to in the proceedings as X due to an anonymity order) lives and works in Northern Ireland. He married his husband in London in 2014. This marriage is legally recognised in England and Wales under the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013. The only part of that Act that extends to Northern Ireland is Schedule 2. This schedule states that a same sex marriage is treated for the purposes of Northern Ireland law as a civil partnership.


X brought legal proceedings to seek a declaration that his marriage in London is a valid and legal marriage under Northern Irish law. He claimed that the failure to recognise the marriage breached his rights under the European Convention of Human Rights.


The Judge considered the consultations around the passing of the 2013 Act, as well as the domestic case law. The Court paid particular attention to the recent judgments from the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) on these issues.  The European case law had revealed there is no consensus on the issue of same-sex marriage within the countries that have signed up to the Convention. The High Court concluded that the ECtHR has held that same-sex marriage is not a Convention right. Therefore while it is open to the Governments and Parliaments to provide for it, they are not obliged to do so, and whether they do so is a matter for them, not the Courts.


The High Court dismissed the application.


An article by VIEW/digital can be read here.  Conor McCormick, a member of PILS’ Pro Bono Register, has critiqued the case and his commentary can be read here.  

LGBT, Local Developments