The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act completed its passage through the Houses of Parliament and received Royal Assent on Wednesday 17 July. The UK Government has confirmed that from 29 March 2014 same sex couples will be able to marry in England and Wales, and by the end of 2014 couples in Civil Partnerships will be able to have them ‘converted’ to marriages.
To help everyone understand what the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act means for them Stonewall has produced answers to your top ten questions. We hope these are helpful.
If you need any more support get in touch with Stonewall Cymru's Information Service on 08000 50 20 20 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
No. In fact doing so might affect your rights in other ways, for example when it comes to benefits, insurance and pension policies. You’d also have to pay court fees (currently £410) and the process can take several months, plus to get dissolution you need to show your relationship has ‘irretrievably broken down’. The Government have said that by the end of 2014 it will be possible for couples, who registered their civil partnership under the law of England and Wales, to convert their civil partnership into marriage. Stonewall is pushing for this to happen as soon as possible. There’s no automatic ‘conversion’ so if you want to remain in a civil partnership or you want to have one, you can!
If you’re living in England or Wales and not already in a civil partnership or marriage, the first step is to give notice. You can do this at your local register office anytime from 13 March 2014. There needs to be at least fifteen clear days from the date you give notice to the day of your wedding. This means that the earliest you could get married is 29 March.
Religious organisations can ‘opt-in’ to celebrating same sex marriages (except the Church of England and Church in Wales). Organisations like the Quakers and Liberal Judaism have indicated that they’re planning to opt in. If you think a religious organisation near you might be planning to celebrate same sex weddings then talk to them and find out!
You’ll need to book with your local register office to give notice of your marriage even if you’ve already given notice of a civil partnership. Civil partnership and marriage are registered under separate pieces of legislation, so a notice given for one can’t be used for the other. This means you’ll have to give notice of marriage at least 15 clear days before the date of your wedding, and the superintendent registrar is entitled to ask you to pay another fee to cover the costs of this process.
If you’ve already given notice of your civil partnership, you’ll need to meet with your registrar to give notice of a marriage, but that doesn’t mean you have to change the venue. If you’ve yet to give notice, or you’ve given notice of a marriage already, and it’s a non-religious wedding venue (such as a register office, hotel etc.), things can carry on as planned. It’s a bit trickier for some religious venues, so you’ll need to get in touch with the religious organisation concerned to find out.
If they’re a non-religious venue they’d be acting unlawfully. Wedding service providers are not allowed to discriminate against you just because you’re a same sex couple. If you experience discrimination, contact Stonewall for advice and support.
While you can’t give notice until 13 March, registrars can currently book you in to give notice and can also take bookings for weddings from 29 March.
Stonewall is currently seeking clarification on this and will include details on our website when they become available. We caution anyone against paying for legal advice at the moment as it may not be necessary to change your legal documents.
If you’ve held a marriage ceremony in another country, and are currently treated as civil partners here, you’ll instead be recognised as being married in England and Wales from 13 March 2014.
If you entered into a legal partnership overseas, that isn’t a marriage, you will continue to be treated as civil partners. Only civil partnerships registered in England and Wales will be eligible for a conversion to marriage. You can’t get married in England and Wales if you have an existing legal relationship elsewhere.
The Scottish Parliament is currently considering a Bill which would bring equal marriage to Scotland. Stonewall Scotland are campaigning hard to make sure that the Bill becomes law. Since 2005 it has been possible to enter into a civil partnership in Northern Ireland but there are no current plans to introduce equal marriage. You can get married in England and Wales but it will be treated as a civil partnership in Northern Ireland, and in Scotland until they introduce equal marriage.