Home Office launches same-sex marriage consultation
In what is fast becoming one of the most contentious family law issues in recent times, same-sex marriages could soon become a reality after the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Equalities and Criminal Information, Lynne Featherstone, announced the launch of a consultation on how to introduce equal civil marriage in the UK.
The consultation sets out the government’s proposals to enable same-sex couples to have a civil marriage, and among the key proposals of the consultation are:
- To enable same-sex couples to have a civil marriage i.e. only civil ceremonies in a register office or approved premises (such as a hotel).
- To retain civil partnerships for same-sex couples and allow couples already in a civil partnership to convert this into a full-blown marriage.
- To make no changes to religious marriages, which will still only be legally possible between a man and a woman.
- For the first time, individuals will be able to change their gender without having to end their marriage.
- Civil partnership registrations on religious premises will continue as is currently possible i.e. on a voluntary basis for faith groups and with no religious content.
“During a listening exercise conducted in 2010 on allowing civil partnerships to take place on religious premises, we heard representations from many who sought equal access to marriage for same-sex couples,” said Ms Featherstone.
“It was argued by some that having two separate provisions for same-sex and opposite-sex couples perpetuates misconceptions and discrimination.
“We recognise that the personal commitment made by same-sex couples when they enter into a civil partnership is no different to the commitment made by opposite-sex couples when they enter into a marriage. We do not think that the ban on same-sex couples getting married should continue.
“That is why we are, today, launching this consultation to seek the public’s views on how we can remove the ban on same-sex couples getting a civil marriage. We are clear that no changes will be made to how religious organisations define and solemnize religious marriages and we are clear that we will retain civil partnerships for same-sex couples.”
In recent weeks, support and opposition for same-sex marriages has hit the headlines in almost equal measure. And last week, the Bishop of Lancaster joined a growing list of religious figures against the proposal, saying the church “believes in the law of nature, the natural law that man and woman are complementary and that is the best environment within which to bring up children”.
Whether or not the government goes ahead with the publicly supported yet religiously condemned measure remains to be seen, but if you’re considering entering a civil partnership, or possibly a same-sex marriage in the future, contact our family legal team today.