First same-sex couple to marry in Northern Ireland

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By Aoife Moore

A Belfast couple are set to become the first same-sex pair to get married in Northern Ireland.

Robyn Peoples, 26, and Sharni Edwards, 27, will tie the knot at 2pm on Tuesday in Carrickfergus, following the landmark law change last year championed by the Love Equality campaign.

The day marks their sixth anniversary as a couple and they had booked a civil partnership ceremony for the date months before the law change in the region, now changed to a wedding ceremony.

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

Ahead of her wedding, Ms Peoples said the pair were sending a message to the world that "we are equal".

"Our love is personal, but the law which said we couldn't marry was political," she said.

"We are delighted that with our wedding, we can now say that those days are over.

"While this campaign ends with Sharni and I saying 'I do', it started with people saying 'No' to inequality. By standing together, we've made history."

Her partner, Ms Edwards, said she did not even know the law was different in Northern Ireland until she moved to Belfast from England, adding: "We feel humbled that our wedding is a landmark moment for equal rights in Northern Ireland. We didn't set out to make history - we just fell in love.

"We are so grateful to the thousands of people who marched for our freedoms, to the Love Equality campaign who led the way, and the politicians who voted to change the law.

"Without you, our wedding wouldn't have been possible. We will be forever thankful."

Sara Canning - partner of Lyra McKee, a journalist who was killed in Derry last April - will join activists, MPs and campaigners from Amnesty International and the Love Equality campaign at a parliamentary event on Tuesday evening to celebrate the law change.

"What a wonderful moment in our history," she said.

"This really means so much and has brought me some much-needed light in what has been a dark year," Ms Canning said.

"I know Lyra would have been so overjoyed to see this day. She was a strong advocate for equal marriage and we both took part in the marches organised by the Love Equality campaign.

"Of course, this historic moment is a little bitter-sweet. It had been our dream too.

"Lyra and I should have been an engaged couple now, planning our own wedding day.

"But I am so happy for Robyn and Sharni, the first couple to marry under the new law. We've been in touch in recent days and I'm delighted for them and for all the other couples who will follow."

Patrick Corrigan, Northern Ireland Director of Amnesty International, which helped lead the successful Love Equality campaign for marriage equality in Northern Ireland, said: "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.

"In winning this campaign, we haven't just changed the law, we've changed Northern Ireland for the better."

Same-sex marriage could legally take place in Northern Ireland from Monday February 10.

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