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On Monday, the first same sex couple legally wed in the United Kingdom. The ceremony, which took place in Belfast, Ireland, was highly celebrated and vehemently protested. The couple, Shannon Sickels from New York and Grainne Close from Northern Ireland, is the first of hundreds of same sex couples who will hold civil partnership ceremonies in the UK over the coming weeks. At least 1,200 same sex couples plan to wed in the UK over the coming months, including rock star Elton John and partner David Furnish who will hold a lavish ceremony this week.
On Monday, 19 December 2005, Northern Ireland was the first of the UK regions to grant same sex couples the same rights granted to heterosexual married couples. On Tuesday, a similar same sex marriage bill will go into effect in Scotland. England and Wales will follow on Wednesday. These laws all grant same sex couples the same rights as traditional married couples in the areas of inheritance, pensions, property, and employment.
While friends and family of Sickels and Close celebrated the couple’s union inside Belfast City Hall, protestors raged outside. Several religious protesters led the stir going on outside, shouting that same sex marriage was an abomination and against the word of God.
Both Close and Sickles told reporters that the ceremony not only recognized the couple’s love and commitment, it also acknowledges, accepts, and respects the couple and others like them as human beings.
The UK is just the latest country in Europe to recognize same sex unions. Canada, Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, and other European countries also recognize same sex marriages. The United States has had an embattled history concerning the fight for same sex couples’ rights. Some cities and states have legalized same sex unions only to have the courts strike these laws down.