Same sex couples will be able to get married in England and Wales after new measures have become law. Due to the amendments to be made to other laws that are relevant to marriage and the administrative changes needed same sex marriage is expected to be available from next summer.
If you are already in a civil partnership the new law will enable you to convert your partnership into a marriage, if you want to. It is envisaged that civil partners will be able to simply convert their partnership into a marriage by filling in a form, there will be no need to hold another ceremony, but of course couples can do if they wish! The date of the marriage will begin on the date the civil partnership ceremony was held, not the date the civil partnership is converted into a marriage.
Aside from having an excuse to throw a party and have a big celebration there are other reasons why you might want to get married rather than remain civil partners and these include:
- Travel - restrictions can apply to civil partners but not married couples. In countries where same sex marriage is legal they do not recognise civil partnerships which can mean that UK civil partners living abroad do not enjoy the same rights as same sex married couples.
- Forced outing – certain official forms require a declaration of marital status which often means that civil partners are forced to state their sexuality.
- Vows - There is also no requirement for civil partners to take any vows like there is in a marriage and some same sex couples may like to take vows.
- Language – the language of a civil partnership is different to marriage which often makes people feel segregated, for instance by having to refer to their partner as a “civil partner” rather than a “husband” or “wife”.
The overwhelming reason why civil partners may want to get married is because of labels rather than legal implications. Marriage for many represents a form of inclusion and acceptance within society.
However, it can’t be forgotten that the marriage system has patriarchal foundations and many same sex, and indeed opposite sex couples may not want to marry because of the historic baggage associated with it.
There are some differences between same sex and opposite sex marriage, these include:
- Non-consummation as a ground for an annulment and divorce on the basis of adultery do not apply in the case of same sex marriages.
- Some religions are explicitly banned from performing religious same sex marriages.
- The requirements and costs of registering premises for the conduct of religious same sex marriages are much harsher than for opposite sex marriages in religious premises.
- Pension inheritance rights are fewer on death of a same sex marriage spouse.
Civil partnerships will still be legally recognised in England and Wales. Same sex couples will have the choice to either get married or enter into a civil partnership. This has caused some controversy as it does not provide for equality for all. There has been, and will continue to be, much debate in Parliament about whether civil partnerships have a place in society now, many expect that either opposite sex couples will be allowed to enter into a civil partnership or the government will be forced to abolish same sex civil partnerships altogether and convert all civil partnerships to a marriage.
By Gemma Hope