At present, same-sex marriage is illegal throughout the UK, but
the government will host a consultation to change this in March
2012 and has expressed its commitment to reversing this by the 2015
Current civil partnership legislation offers identical rights and
responsibilities to same-sex couples as civil marriage including:
property rights, inheritance tax exemptions, social security and
pension benefits, tenancy and next of kin rights, parental (and
financial) responsibility for partner's children under section 72
of the Children's Act as well as responsibility for maintenance of
partner and kids.
There are, however, technical differences between the two which
will form part of the 2012 consultation - this includes how
the CPs are formed (through the signing of documentation rather
than the saying of words in a marriage), consummation (CPs do not
require consummation), accrual of pension rights in some private
schemes and what can constitute a divorce (adultery cannot be sited
as a reason to dissolve a CP).
Getting hitched, religiously
Under previous legislation, civil partnership ceremonies were
prohibited from taking place in religious institutions and for
including religious readings, music or symbols. These restrictions
were lifted on 5 December.
Religious organisations are now welcome to register their
interest in performing civil partnerships, but are not legally
compelled to offer same-sex couples their services but they must be
secular and religious language, music or symbols will not be
permitted. Yeah, we know!
What is expected to happen is that religious organisations will
have a religious ceremony in the same venue, before or after, or
indeed before and after the formal secular part of the ceremony. We
can't, at this stage, talk about what any provision for same-sex
civil marriage would look like as the government is still working
up ideas in the run-up to the consultation stage in March.
Under the original 2004 Civil Partnership Act, a ceremony and
vows were not legally required and were limited. There is now a
greater choice and freedom for couples deciding how and where they
wish to celebrate their civil partnership. It is likely to be
similar for same-sex marriage.
Will your CP be recognized overseas?
There is currently no definitive list of nations outside the UK
that recognise British civil partnerships, and the government
advises contacting their overseas British embassies for
clarification before departing on holiday or emigrating.
However, as a general rule of thumb, countries that perform
their own civil-partnerships/same-sex marriages are likely to
acknowledge UK civil partnerships as legal unions. This is likely
to remain the same for same-sex marriages as there is no current
plan to homogenise European law on the matter.
If you require more information on civil partnerships,
contact Stonewall on 08000 50 20 20 for free, confidential