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Digital Subscriptions > GCN > 358 > The North? It's Complicated...

The North? It's Complicated...

In 2005, the Belfast-based writer and queer activist Shannon Sickels made history alongside her partner, Grainne Close, as the first public UK civil partnership. All these years later in 2018, Shannon and Grainne are still battling for equal rights and equal marriage. A momentous deadline looms for Northern Ireland, a date which could have a massive impact on the lives of its LGBT+ community for years to come. The author explains. Illustrations by SOAK.

The North was ‘Last’. For a long time.

It was the last place in the UK to decriminalise homosexuality in 1983, requiring an individual, Jeffrey Dudgeon, to take a case to the European Court of Human Rights. Many LGBT+ people believed the North would never be ‘Next’, rather, it was ‘Never in My Lifetime.’ Then the North was ‘First’ in 2005. It wasn’t supposed to be. If the North had been ruling itself, rather than under the direct rule of Westminster because Stormont had collapsed, then civil partnership legislation would not have passed, despite years and years of activism. An administrative loophole meant paperwork processing times were shorter in the North, and voilá - Gráinne and I had the UK’s first public civil partnership in Belfast, followed by Chris and Henry Flanagan-Kane.

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About GCN

Welcome to our ninth annual Wedding Issue! In this issue, we look at the full spectrum of marriage, from proposals, to the ceremony and beyond. Four couples let us in on their wedding journey and all the planning and dreaming that goes into creating the perfect day, while long-term married pairings give the lowdown on how to keep a relationship strong. For those not into all this wedding malarkey, there’s a couple perfectly happy not to walk down the aisle. On the culture side, we have a pair of interviews with two wonderful musical acts - the iconic Indigo Girls and the thrilling Cub Sport. We discuss the cold facts that families of same-sex parents aren’t as equal as their straight counterparts, and that our family in the North still battle for the right to love. Our cover image is by the artist Joe Caslin. He speaks inside about art as activism and the power of solidarity, something that our whole community can very much agree with. The North Is Next.