Northern Ireland’s first gay religious wedding takes place today
Northern Ireland’s first-ever gay religious wedding takes place today in Co Antrim, following legislation introduced in July.
Same-sex marriage has been legally recognized here since January, but does not extend to ceremonies in churches or religious organizations.
There are exemptions and protections for religious organizations that do not wish to perform same-sex marriages.
The Northern Ireland office held a consultation on extending same-sex marriages to religious ceremonies and the new regulations, which came into effect on September 1, were based on their findings.
Pastor Steve Ames of Harbor Faith Community will officiate today for the first gay religious ceremony.
The Carrickfergus Church has campaigned for same-sex marriage here before and Mr Ames said it had been a “long road” to get there.
“Not many people realize that there are a number of ministers and religious communities who support the rights of LGBT people to marry,” he explained.
“We always have, we just haven’t heard a lot about it so for us we’ve been part of the campaign to see this moment happen and we’re excited.
“To be honest, credit goes to the Love Equality campaign. They are the ones who put a lot of time and a lot of work into getting things done to bring us these changes.
“We are very grateful for all the work they have done in support of civil and religious marriages.”
Ames said the couple who are getting married today are “very excited” and have been looking forward to this day for a long time.
“I have known many couples over the years who have been eagerly awaiting the opportunity to get married,” he continued.
“They found it simply absurd that they had to wait so long for this moment to come.
“We’re excited and I’m really excited to see this happening.
“Our own scriptures tell us that, ‘Everyone who loves is born of God and knows God,’ 1 John 4: 7.
“So when two people stand in front of a room full of witnesses and publicly engage in love, then it is a sacred time and the church should celebrate it as such.”
Mr Ames added that he finds the distinction between civil and religious marriages a bit arbitrary, as many couples, whether gay or not, may just want to briefly mention their faith in the ceremony.
“A lot of couples are neither completely anti-religious nor completely religious, they are often somewhere in the middle, so a couple does not necessarily have to be devout devotees to want a religious wedding,” he said. declared.
“It may just be that a part of their extended family is related to the church or if they are not part of the established church scene and have their own personal faith, they may just want a little nod. eye to faith during the ceremony.
“I am more than happy to provide this service to people, whether they are same sex couples or opposite sex couples.”