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First same sex marriage Northern Ireland
Robyn Peoples, 26, and Sharni Edwards, 27 legally marry in Northern IrelandVia Twitter @parallelnewsone

The first same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland officially takes place

‘It's completely surreal. We are literally living the dream’

It’s official: Northern Ireland has rung in its first same-sex marriage, as a couple tie the knot just outside Belfast.

Robyn Peoples, 26, and Sharni Edwards, 27, exchanged vows in a ceremony at the Loughshore Hotel in Carrickfergus, after six years together. Edwards told RTE news: “We didn't expect to be the first couple, it's coincidental.”

She added: “Today is our six-year anniversary so we wanted to go ahead with a civil partnership but when the bill was passed, it was perfect timing. It's completely surreal. We are literally living the dream, it's incredible.”

The push for marriage equality, lead by the Love Equality campaign, was finally won on January 13 when the Northern Irish Parliament was restored after a long closure. Because it takes around 28 days to register, it’s taken until now for the first couple to officially walk down the aisle. “We fought so long and hard for this opportunity to be seen as equal and now we are here and it's just amazing,” Peoples said.

Patrick Corrigan, the Northern Ireland Director of Amnesty International which took the lead in the Love Equality campaign, said of the marriage: “Sharni and Robyn’s wedding is a landmark moment for equality in Northern Ireland. We wish them all the love and happiness for their married life together.

”People in Northern Ireland have had to fight longer, harder and overcome more obstacles to win equal marriage than anywhere else in the UK or Ireland. We are proud of the LGBT community here and the thousands who marched alongside them to ensure this day became a reality.”

He added: “In winning this campaign, we haven't just changed the law, we've changed Northern Ireland for the better.”

“The campaign was long and arduous. At times, it seemed to be a never-ending uphill climb against societal apathy, political gridlock, activist fatigue, and institutional homophobia. There were moments when I genuinely didn’t think that it would ever happen – with the DUP wielding a one-party veto over legislation and having blocked every attempt to introduce marriage equality, it was often difficult to motivate myself and other LGBTQ+ activists around the idea that we would win in the end,” campaigner and writer Stephen Donnan-Dalzell wrote for Dazed previously.

“After nine years of campaigning, lobbying, arguing, crying, marching, voting, waving flags, and holding onto threadbare hope, we made it! I have even more hope for a brighter future.”

Same-sex marriage has been legal in England, Wales and Scotland since 2014. In July 2019, MPs in Westminster passed amendments which legally obligd the government to change the laws around abortion and same-sex marriage in NI if Stormont – the devolved NI parliament – had not been restored by 21 October. The deadline passed, and NI saw abortion and marriage policy get underway. From 13 January, same-sex couples were allowed to register to be married. Legislation surrounding abortion is expected to come in this March.