The measure is already in force in many other European countries. In the United States, more than a dozen states recognize some form of domestic partnerships or civil unions, but 11 states voted in November to ban gay marriage. The Rev. Ian Brown of the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster, a protest leader, said most people in Northern Ireland opposed what he called “sodomite propaganda” and homosexuals’ “perverse lifestyle.” Such views are more widely held in Northern Ireland than in other parts of the United Kingdom. Here, Roman Catholics and Protestants sometimes overcome their political hostility to protest jointly on traditional family issues. Outside, the crowd of gay rights activists grew to outnumber their evangelical opponents. A gay-rights clown walked about on stilts, while two others donned Hitler-style mustaches and waved satirical placards that read, “Earth is flat” and “Bring back slavery.” 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORERose Parade grand marshal Rita Moreno talks New Year’s Day outfit and ‘West Side Story’ remake “This is about making a choice to have our civil rights acknowledged and respected and protected as any human being,” said Sickels, 27, who met her 32-year-old partner in New York four years ago. Their ceremony featured such songs as Dolly Parton’s “Touch Your Woman.” More than 700 such marriage-style ceremonies will be repeated today and Wednesday in registry offices across other regions of the United Kingdom – including Elton John and his longtime partner – but almost certainly without Belfast’s exceptional brand of conservatism on display. Homosexuality itself was outlawed here until 1982, decades after neighboring Britain. “You need to repent, love,” one of the protesters, the Rev. James Dawson, called out to Brenda Murphy, one of the guests at the first civil partnership ceremony. “This is a travesty, and you’re an abomination before God. God bless you – but first you have to repent of your sins.” “You would be so lucky to have this lady, love,” Murphy retorted, holding hands with her partner. “I’ll see you at the gates of heaven, mate.” BELFAST, Northern Ireland – The two women strode into City Hall with outsized pink corsages pinned to their black-and-white tailored suits, ignoring the chants of anti-homosexual protesters outside. The two – Grainne Close, a Northern Ireland social worker, and Shannon Sickels, a New York playwright – emerged from the building after a 30-minute ceremony, smiling and proudly displaying their matching diamond-and-platinum rings. Close and Sickels were among the United Kingdom’s first three same-sex unions Monday, when a new British law granting legal status to gay and lesbian couples came into force here first. As Close and Sickels left, scores of family, friends and gay rights activists tossed flowers and rainbow-colored ribbons in their path.