Same Sex Marriage - An Update
The law took a significant leap in the right direction in July 2013 when the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill was passed. As from the 29th of March 2014, same sex couples will have the right to marry. This month will go down in history as the month in which equal rights for same sex couples were entrenched in the law of England and Wales.
Same sex couples have had the right to enter into a Civil Partnership since December 2005, which gives them the majority of the rights and responsibilities of married couples – Elton John and David Furnish were one of the first couples to enter into a Civil Partnership!
However, affording same sex couples the right to formalise their relationship in the same way as heterosexual couples really does speaks volumes in relation to their status in society. In such a diverse society where same sex relationships are more common than ever, this change has been long overdue.
The position is not entirely clear cut for same sex couples who have already entered into a Civil Partnership. When section 9 of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act comes into force, which it is thought will be at the end of 2014, it will allow these couples to convert their Civil Partnership into a marriage, but a decision of how this is to be implemented has yet to be reached. Until then, they will have to dissolve their Civil Partnerships first if they wish to get married.
This issue has been brought to the public limelight this week by Michael and Paul Atwal-Brice, a same sex couple who became Civil Partners in 2008 and who wanted to be one of the first same sex couples to marry. After being told of this gap in the law, they are seeking judicial review of the Government’s delay in implementing this section.
Let us wait and see if Elton John and David Furnish decide to go down the marriage route. It is without doubt that if they do, there will be no expense spared at their wedding!