At the end of March, the first same sex weddings took place in England and Wales with David Cameron confirming his support saying that it demonstrated Britain’s ‘proud traditions of respect, tolerance and equal worth’.
Whilst equality in marriage may divide opinion, in addition to this there are implications for the laws around marriage in England and Wales with the introduction of same sex marriage.
The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 allows same sex couples in England and Wales to:
• Marry in a civil ceremony
• Be married by a religious organisation which agrees to undertake the ceremony
• Convert any civil partnership into a marriage if they wish to
• Allow an individual to change their gender without needing to end their marriage
The Act also protects any religious organisation from having to carry out same sex marriages if they do not wish to.
So these amendments all seem relatively straight forward and they are, but there are some exceptions that do not apply to same sex marriages.
The first exception is that same sex couples will not be able to divorce on the grounds of adultery, because the law defines adultery as a sexual relationship outside of marriage with someone of the opposite sex. The second exception is that a same sex marriage cannot be annulled on the grounds of non-consummation.
In addition to these exceptions, pension rights are currently not equal, but this will need to be reviewed and reported on by the Secretary of State by 1st July this year.
This also brings into question the place of civil partnerships in England and Wales and whether couples of opposite sex should be allowed to have a civil partnership rather than just the option to marry. Again, the Secretary of State will need to review this and consult on the options.
As the law only applies to England and Wales, same sex marriage is currently treated as a civil partnership in Northern Ireland. Scotland is currently debating this issue in the hope that it also becomes law there.
For more information about this article or any aspect of our family law services, please call Charles Goodbody in our Warminster office on 01985 214444 or email firstname.lastname@example.org and we will be delighted to help you (there is no charge for initial telephone discussions).