Nick Karvounis via Unsplash

Northern Ireland now has marriage equality!

The law banning same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland changed at midnight on Tuesday 22 October after amendments were put forward in Westminster by backbench Labour MPs this summer.

It’s expected that the first same-sex weddings in the country will take place in February 2020, in time for Valentine’s Day.

The change also brings an end to Northern Ireland’s ban on abortion, which United Nations’ Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Kate Gilmore, previously described as “tantamount to torture” and “gender-based violence”.

Attempts were made by the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to reform the country’s currently-defunct devolved government in an attempt to block the changes, but it failed as opposition parties did not attend.

Arlene Foster, leader of the anti-marriage equality DUP, called it a “sad day” for Northern Ireland, but it seems most of the country was too busy celebrating the positive step towards equality.

“Today is a hugely significant day as we end the denial of rights to the LGBT community and to women,” said Michelle O’Neill, the leader of Sinn Féin.

“Tonight, as of midnight, all those people in the LGBT community, our gay brothers and sisters who wish to get married, can have that recognised in law, and that’s a hugely positive thing. Well done to everybody.”

“It’s [the] beginning of a new era. We can now look forward to a more equal future with our bodily autonomy and choices respected. Finally same sex couples can marry the person they love,” wrote Grainne Teggart, Campaigns Manager for Amnesty UK and Northern Ireland.

Nicola Coughlan, who plays lesbian Clare Devlin in hit Northern Ireland comedy Derry Girls, shared a throwback to the day she protested for abortion and equal marriage rights with co-star Siobhán McSweeney.

She also gave a shoutout to “all the wee lesbians” who “can finally be treated as equal in their own country”.

Many in the LGBTQ community spent Monday night celebrating the introduction of marriage equality, while queer venues hosted countdowns to midnight.

“Words cannot describe this euphoria felt across Northern Ireland tonight,” wrote one Twitter user. “FINALLY we are moving into the 21st century and celebrating that LOVE IS LOVE no matter your gender or sexual orientation.”

The changes to law bring Northern Ireland in line with the rest of the UK, where same-sex marriage has been legal since 2014, and the Republic of Ireland, who introduced marriage equality in 2015.