First same-sex marriage takes place in Northern Ireland during LGBT history month

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Geraint Vincent

A couple have become the first same-sex couple to marry in Northern Ireland, saying "it's amazing" to see "history being made".

Sharni Edwards and Robyn Peoples tied the knot in County Antrim on February 11, during LGBT history month.

The pair said the date is a lucky coincidence, however, as they had not planned to be the first same-sex marriage to take place in the region.

The couple's married name is Edwards-Peoples.

Same-sex marriages have been taking place in England, Scotland and Wales since March 2014.

Robyn Peoples (left) and Sharni Edwards became the first couple to have a same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland. Credit: PA

Months before the landmark law legalising same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland, Ms Edwards and Ms Peoples had booked a civil partnership ceremony to coincide with their sixth anniversary.

Same-sex marriage was legalised in Northern Ireland as a result of a law passed last year by Westminster MPs who stepped in and acted on the controversial issue during the power sharing impasse at Stormont.

Only after the law change did the couple turn the event into a wedding ceremony.

Sharni Edwards and Robyn Peoples will wed in County Antrim on February 11 during LGBT history month. Credit: PA

Ms Edwards, 27, and Ms Peoples, 26, said they planned an intimate wedding ceremony followed by a big party.

Before the wedding, Ms Peoples described the build-up to the high-profile wedding as an "amazing whirlwind".

"It’s the biggest coincidence," she said.

The couple tied the knot on Tuesday. Credit: PA

"We didn’t set out to be the first or have all this attention, but we are grateful to be able to set the way for the rest of our community."

Asked what it means to them to have become LGBTQ champions in Northern Ireland, Ms Edwards responded "it means the absolute world", before going on to thank all the activists who have campaigned for same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland.

The couple said it was 'amazing' to become an inspiration to other LGBT communities in Northern Ireland. Credit: PA

"If it wasn't for them guys we wouldn't be sat here right now, we just want to say thank you to everyone... everyone who has marched and signed petitions, everyone who has helped us get to this stage, we just want to say thank you."

Ms Peoples, a senior care assistant from Belfast, said she never thought the day would come, due to the reluctance of many local politicians to lift the prohibition.

She added: "It's just to show that we are equal to a man and a woman, our love is just the same, it's no different," she said.

"Sometimes people might try to say it's not. Our love is the exact same, and this means everything to us.

"Now we are married and we have this opportunity - this is my wife, I can finally say she is my wife and we have had our marriage."

Ms Edwards, from Brighton, said she did not even know the law was different in Northern Ireland until she moved to Belfast from England.

"Every year you just felt knocked back and knocked back no matter how many marches and protests there were, but finally we are there," said the waitress.

"When I found out, I couldn’t comprehend it, I couldn’t understand why Northern Ireland was so behind.

"Now the bill’s been passed to see history being made it’s just amazing."

Members of the LGBT community celebrate in Belfast celebrate same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland becoming a step closer. Credit: PA

The couple paid a visit to a Belfast mural dedicated to murdered journalist Lyra McKee as they spoke about their wedding plans.

Ms McKee, who was shot dead by dissident republicans as she observed a riot in Londonderry last April, was a vocal campaigner for same-sex marriage.

The couple visited a Belfast mural dedicated to murdered author Lyra McKee. Credit: PA

Patrick Corrigan from Amnesty International said the wedding would be a momentous occasion not only for the couple but for the tens of thousands of people who were involved in the campaign for a law change.

"It’s big day for them but it’s also a big day for the campaign for equal marriage in Northern Ireland," he said.

Sara Canning, Ms McKee's partner, told ITV News it's an "absolutely huge moment" for Northern Ireland and an "important first step".

She said if England and Wales had not legalised same-sex marriage, Northern Ireland would have followed "eventually" but not "for another few years."

But she said her country was "incredibly accepting overall."

"Even though there is a conservatism, and religious figures and things like that, I've never had any negativity from anyone in Northern Ireland, no matter where I've gone, about my sexuality," Ms Canning said.

"I think it will probably go a long way for acceptance of marriage, but in terms of acceptance of LGBT+ people in general, it's actually a really lovely place to live."

Shannon Sickles (left) and Grainne Close at Belfast city Hall after becoming the first couple to enter into a civil partnership in 2005. Credit: PA
  • The history of same-sex couples tying the knot in Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland's first same-sex marriage comes six years after same-sex couples married for the first time in England and Wales.

Marriages between same-sex couples across the rest of the UK have been taking place since 2014 following a change in the law - but Stormont failed to follow suit.

It was, however, Northern Ireland that held the first civil partnerships in December 2005.

  • A journey from the registry office into the history books - watch the 2005 ITV News report from the first civil partnerships

The Civil Partnership Act legally recognised the union of same-sex couples for the first time, giving same-sex couples equality with heterosexual couples in terms of tax and inheritance rights.

With a shorter registration period in Norther Ireland, Belfast city hall hosted the first civil-partnerships between same-sex couples.

Opponents gathered outside the hall to express their disagreement with the changes. Protesters held banners that read: "Homosexuality is a sin".

Protesters gathered outside Belfast city hall in 2005 in opposition to civil partnerships. Credit: PA

Dr Ian Brown of the Free Presbyterian Church made the following address to the crowd: "This is particularly sad day for Northern Ireland. We were the last part of UK to have ban on practice of homosexuality overturned.

"Now we find ourselves in even more tragic position of being the first part of UK to stage a sodomite wedding."

Now the last part of the UK to host a same-sex marriage, Northern Ireland is set to join the rest of the UK after a 15-year wait for campaigners.

LGBT charity Stonewall described same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland in 2020 as a "huge moment of celebration".