Shortly after the Civil Partnership Act came into force and homosexual couples were able to celebrate their union by forming a civil partnership, there began a ground swell of movement asking why homosexual couples could not “marry” rather than form a “civil partnership”.
The reality of the situation was that, legally speaking, they were virtually identical in all but name. From a cold legal perspective the debate was very much semantic one. However, as ever, when you are talking about two parties who wish to publicly celebrate their love and share their life together the question moved from being one that was not semantic but romantic. Labels are very important.
The government accepted this position and legislation was swiftly passed so that homosexual couples can now “marry” in much the same way as their heterosexual counterparts.
However, the legislation, which was rushed through, had one obvious omission. What happens to those couples who had formed a civil partnership? Could they now marry? Did they need to marry? Would their Civil Partnership now become a “marriage”?
When this, rather obvious question, was put it became apparent that it had not been discussed or decided by Parliament at all. Indeed, it looked like a couple enjoying a civil partnership would need to dissolve their civil partnership (in effect – divorce) in order to then have a marriage. A perfectly ridiculous state of affairs.
Thankfully, this has quickly and sensibly been dealt with and couples in a civil partnership will very swiftly have the option to convert their union into a marriage – and all before Christmas!
On the 15 October 2014 regulations were put before Parliament to deal with this situation and Parliament have approved them.
From the 10 December this year, couples who are currently in a civil partnership will be able to make a simple conversion. All they need to do is:-
- Either go through a simple process of filing out a simple form at their local registry office – which will enable the conversion to take place administratively; or
- They can have a fresh ceremony where the Superintendent Registrar or their Deputy can complete the conversion at another ceremony, at a suitable venue with the happy couple and their families and friends This conversion can take place at all sorts of locations such as hotels, stately homes and, indeed, religious premises. A golden opportunity to have a second bite at the wedding cake.
There is a price difference being that couples who simply ask for a conversion will be able to do so free of charge whereas couples who wish to have a fresh ceremony will need to pay the normal £45 fee.
Now that this option is available, it will be interesting to see just how many of those in civil partnerships choose to take up the ability to re name their union.