On 17 July 2013 the UK Parliament passed the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013. This will allow same-sex couples to marry in England and Wales once it comes into force, which is expected in the summer of 2014.
The introduction of equal marriage will end some but not all the discrimination against same-sex couples, which came about by having a separate institution of civil partnership.
Civil partnership will remain, although just as an alternative option for same-sex couples.
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There are a number of points where the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 is in a muddle:
If you are in a same-sex relationship, you will have to wait until the Act comes into force next year. Alternatively, you can get married in another country which allows it. If you are not already civil partners, your marriage is recognised in England and Wales as a civil partnership now, but will be recognised as a marriage once the Act comes into force.
The Act provides only for those couples who registered in England and Wales to convert their civil partnership into a marriage. If you simply got married (here or abroad), your marriage would be void as you are already in a civil partnership. This is something you may want to challenge in court under the Human Rights Act.
Until the Act comes into force, you are treated as civil partners. Once it comes into force, you are treated as a married couple.
No, not under the Act as it is drawn up. However, this almost certainly contravenes EU equality legislation and this is challenged in the courts at the moment. The Act also compels the government to review this by 1 July 2014 and if the review finds the provisions should be changed, that can be done by the government and no new Act of Parliament is required.
This is a tricky one and depends very much on your circumstances. For example, France at one stage recognised marriage of same-sex couples if they were both from the country where that was allowed (e.g. between two Dutch men), but it did not recognise UK civil partnership. It did change later after the UK government lobbied for it because some English couples who moved to live in France were facing high inheritance tax bills after one of them died. Portugal has equal marriage but it seems does not recognise civil partnership. If you can predict which other country is involved now and either you may inherit from that country, or have a house there etc. you should take legal advice from lawyers here in England and in that country. You should also go to a specialist to draft your wills.
Again, this is a tricky one. If you become civil partners in England or Wales you could later convert that into a marriage (but not the other way round). If your move is some time in the future, it is impossible to predict the legal situation in any particular country at that time. You should get very good and specialist advice before you move and buy any property abroad.
There is no duty to convert your civil partnership into a marriage. You do not have to do anything at all and can just remain civil partners. If you decide you want to convert your civil partnership into a marriage (and you registered your civil partnership in England or Wales), you probably will have to pay the same fee as anyone else who gets married, whether you want a full-blown wedding or whether you just want an administrative conversion.
No, it does not, although the Scottish Parliament is dealing with its own proposal for legislation there. This may come into force at the same time (or earlier or later) than the Act in England and Wales.
For advice on your specific circumstances contact Andrea Woelke at Alternative Family Law: ring us on 020 7407 4007 (+44 20 7407 4007 from abroad) or email us (stating your full name, the full name of the other person in your case and your telephone number on which we can call you).
Please note that we do not have a contract to take on cases on legal aid. To check if you may be able to get legal aid please go to this government website and contact a solicitor who has a legal aid contract.
18. July 2013 by Andrea Woelke
Next: Civil Partnership
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This is an outline of the law, practice and procedure in England and Wales. It should not be taken as specific advice. All families and couples are different. The law may have changed since this was written and we therefore accept no liability for inaccuracies. Where examples are given, your personal circumstances may vary slightly, but the difference may be significant for the outcome of the legal process. Contact us for specific advice on your own circumstances.
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