The lesbian couple who will tie the knot in Northern Ireland’s first same sex marriage next week did not plan on having a milestone marriage.
Robyn Peoples and Sharni Edwards will get married on Tuesday in Carrickfergus, though if NI’s same-sex marriage law had not been passed they were to have a civil partnership that day anyway to coincide with their sixth anniversary of being together.
The couple, who have been engaged for five years, had been part of the Love Equality campaign to get the law changed, but Sharni, 27, admits: “We just got impatient really.”
Last January they booked a civil partnership for February 11, 2020 to mark their six-year anniversary. Their options changed when legislation was passed by Westminster MPs who stepped in during the power-sharing impasse at Stormont, making same-sex marriage legal in NI as of January 13.
However, given the requirement for couples to wait 28 days after submitting their intention to marry, next week was the earliest same-sex couples could tie the knot.
“It was an accident, but it was a good accident,” said Robyn, 26. “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.”
Robyn, who is from the Woodvale area of Belfast, said being a lesbian in NI has been a very positive experience: “I know that’s weird saying that growing up in Northern Ireland where you’re not equal, and now we are. I haven’t had any discrimination, my family is so supportive as is Sharni’s. But it’s not the same for everyone.”
The pair met in the Kremlin (a gay bar in Belfast) when Sharni, who is from Brighton, was here on holidays.
Sharni said: “As soon as we met that was it, we couldn’t leave each other’s side.”
Robyn said: “Flying back and forth wasn’t enough so I moved to England for a year, but I’m such a homebird I had to move back. Sharni came with me.”
Sharni said: “It wasn’t until I moved here that opened my eyes.
“In England we had no idea that Northern Ireland wasn’t as equal as the rest of the UK. I think that’s why we feel so amazing that the change is finally happening.”
Asked how they felt about being the first same-sex couple to marry in Northern Ireland, Robyn said: “It’s surreal. It paves the way for other people to do the same which is great.”
The pair said that after their honeymoon in Cyprus, they plan to get their own house and go on to have children.
Love Equality campaign’s Patrick Corrigan said: “We want to thank them for being part of the campaign and helping us to bring this to a successful conclusion.
“It was a much longer campaign than it needed to be. The LGBT community has had to fight longer and harder for these rights than anyone else anywhere in the UK and Ireland.
“[Robyn and Sharni’s] hopes and dreams are exactly the same as any young couple out there, to settle down and have a family, and a house. And now finally they have the same rights as everyone else and we’re delighted for them.”