Grainne Close, her partner Shannon Sickles, and Chris and Henry Flanagan-Kane are taking legal action against the Stormont administration to challenge the ongoing marriage equality ban in Northern Ireland.
In 2005, they were the first couples to enter civil partnerships in the UK, when Northern Ireland was the first part of the UK to introduce the ceremonies for gay and lesbian couples.
A lawyer for the couples challenging the ban claimed they are suffering state discrimination and believe that being denied the chance to get married in Northern Ireland breaches their human rights.
The judge is hearing this legal challenge in tandem with a separate bid by two men who want their marriage in England to be recognised in their native Northern Ireland.
It is expected that the judge will rule on both cases after Christmas.
A statement released by Grainne Close and her partner Shannon Sickles through Facebook at the end of November reads:
“Our challenge to the ban on equal marriage in NI is being heard this Thursday 3rd & Friday 4th in the High Court in Belfast. Our application is a direct challenge to the legislative provision which prevents a couple from marrying solely on the basis that the couple is of the same sex.
While it is the case that the Assembly recently voted that equal marriage should be permitted, this was, and always can be, blocked by a Petition of Concern, under the constitutional set up in NI. Therefore, the ONLY away equal marriage will ever be permitted in NI is by way of a legal challenge. This is why we have taken our case. It is the only possible way equal marriage will be introduced in NI.
Our case is NOT about religious marriage. We are challenging the current prohibition to civil marriage only.
If our case is successful, ALL couples in NI may apply to be married, irrespective of their sexual orientation.
As the applicants in this case, we are personally liable for all legal fees. We are not funded in any way and have not received funding or financial help from any organisation in our quest to change the law. We ask that you support us in any way you can, including donating to our fund at www.localgiving.com/SILC
Thank you and we’ll be keeping everyone updated!! Our message is simple our love is equal.”
Equal rights campaigner Panti Bliss pledged her support for the case and urged others to get involved in donating or raising money for the marriage equality fund.