Published: 4 March 2014
Same-sex couples who are in civil partnerships received a huge boost last week as plans to be able to convert civil partnerships to same-sex marriages took another step towards a positive conclusion.
In a speech delivered in front of a House of Commons committee, Equalities Minister Helen Grant confirmed that civil partnerships in England and Wales will be able to be converted to same-sex marriages by the end of the year.
Members of the House of Commons committee have been tasked with implementing the new Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act, which comes into force on Saturday 29th March. The committee have had to introduce brand new procedures and processes for same-sex marriages including their registration in shared religious buildings, changes to occupational pension schemes and same-sex marriages registered overseas.
This latest announcement follows months of uncertainty over the new same-sex marriage law and whether civil partnerships will be allowed to be converted to marriages.
Earlier this year, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) launched a 12-week consultation which encourages members of the public to have their say on the future of civil partnerships. The consultation, which is due to finish on 17th April 2014, was issued as a response to many outstanding questions surrounding civil partnerships in England and Wales.
Opinions seem to be divided so far, with some wanting civil partnerships to be available to heterosexual couples, in order to give the option of civil partnerships or marriages to all couples. Others suggested that same-sex couples should have their civil partnerships converted to marriages automatically, with a view of phasing out civil partnerships altogether. Another alternative proposal is to allow couples already in civil partnerships to remain so, however no new civil partnerships would be registered in future.
Mrs Grant said on the matter, "We recently celebrated a historic moment for our society – making marriage available to everyone, regardless of their sexuality or gender. Now all couples will be able to enjoy the opportunity to demonstrate their love for each other and the commitment they wish to make through marriage.
“Over time, the fact that same sex couples can now marry will clearly affect the future of civil partnership. It is right, therefore, to start a review of the operation and future of the Civil Partnership Act 2004. We are doing so by launching this consultation to seek people’s views on the main options for any future changes.”
Human rights and equality campaigners have been calling on the Government to alter their equal marriage plans so that heterosexual couples are allowed to enter into civil partnerships. In response, a spokes person from the DCMS said, "Civil partnerships were created for a very specific reason – to give same-sex couples access to legal rights at a time when society was not ready to give them access to marriage.
“Now that the time is right to extend marriage to same-sex couples, it is also right that we should consider the future of civil partnerships. There are strong views on both sides of this debate, and we have listened to those views. A proper review will allow us to look at the issues in a considered and thorough way, giving full consideration to the implications of any changes.”
At K J Smith Solicitors, we have years of experience in dealing with issues relating to civil partnerships. For more information or to discuss your circumstances with our team, call us to arrange a free 45 min consultation on 01491 630000 (Henley on Thames), 0118 418 1000 (Reading), 01753 325000 (Windsor), or 020 7070 0330 (Central London).