And the brides wore suits

Lesbian couple gets hitched under new British law.

By Lori Leibovich

Published December 20, 2005 4:31PM (EST)

Broadsheet congratulates Shannon Sickels and Gráinne Close, the first gay couple to celebrate a civil partnership under a new British law. The lesbian couple, who got hitched in Belfast, Northern Ireland, yesterday, met in New York three years ago. When Close proposed a year later on the Coney Island boardwalk, she said, "If I could ask you to marry me, I would." Sickels said: "I thought that's nice, but it's never going to happen."

Well, it did happen, although Sickels, a New York playwright, and Close, an Irish-born community worker, had to dodge born-again Christian protesters as they entered Belfast's City Hall. The couple told the Guardian that they do not feel safe walking at night in the conservative city, where homophobia is rampant, and always look over their shoulders before holding hands. The Guardian notes that Belfast is the home of the politician Rev. Ian Paisley, founder of the organization Save Ulster from Sodomy. Last month, one of his party's councillors said Hurricane Katrina had been sent by God to punish New Orleans for holding a gay pride festival.

"It may be a special day for them, but it's a day of shame for this province," the Rev. Kevin McLeod told the New York Daily News.

On their Web site, Sickels and Close, who registered at a local department store as "bride and bride," announced their plans by saying: "We have decided to make 'honest women' out of each other." They added: "Who would have thought that in 2005, we could have our relationship legally recognized in Northern Ireland before New York City?"

They newlyweds, who both wore suits, exited their ceremony to the tune of Dolly Parton's "Touch Your Woman."

Lori Leibovich

Lori Leibovich is a contributing editor at Salon and the former editor of the Life section.

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