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10 December 2014

Civil partnerships may be converted into marriage from 10 December 2014

Civil partnerships were introduced in England and Wales on 21 December 2005. Following the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act, the first same-sex marriages were celebrated in England and Wales in March 2014.

From 10 December 2014, and in response to a public consultation, same-sex couples may now convert their civil partnerships into same-sex marriages.  Couples can choose either a simple conversion into a marriage in a local register office, or couples can have a conversion into a marriage with a ceremony at an approved venue of their choice, including religious premises registered for marriages of same-sex couples.

Couples will be issued with a marriage certificate which will show the marriage should be treated as existing from the date of the original civil partnership.

However, is thought that many couples will feel attached to their civil partnership and will not want to change the status of their relationships.

The Government announced in June 2014 that civil partnerships would not be made available to straight couples.

Emma Alfieri from Steeles Law’s family team said: “The changes certainly give same-sex couples greater choice and whilst this is welcome news, there is an ongoing debate that the changes are discriminatory against heterosexuals.  This is on the basis that heterosexual couples do not have the choice of entering into civil partnerships, as same sex couples do.”

As a result, a heterosexual couple have launched a legal challenge against the existing ban on heterosexual civil partnerships.  They argue that it is unfair that they are able to marry but do not have the ability to enter into a civil partnership.  The couple have reportedly said that they wish to enter into a civil partnership, rather than marriage, as they feel that they would acquire the same rights “without the cultural baggage”.  Supporters say civil partnerships are a simple, more informal and modern form of relation recognition and they are hopeful that they will succeed.

Further updates will follow.  For further advice, please contact our family law team.

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