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Divorce law blog

Save the date: Gay marriages arrive early – for some.

26/03/2014   By: Nigel Shepherd

Same sex couples waiting to get married following the passing of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 didn’t have to wait for as long as they first thought with the first same sex marriages able to take place from Saturday 29th March. Many have already booked their ceremonies to take place on Friday at midnight.

The shortening of the wait is due to the work of government ministers that allowed a quick passage through Parliament using various statutory instruments. Those waiting in the Army and in British Consulates will have to wait a little longer - arrangements for same sex weddings in military chapels will be in place from June 2014.

However, it’s not all confetti and wedding bells for those already in a civil partnership. Within the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 is section nine which provides for a couple to convert their civil partnership into a marriage “under a procedure established by regulations made by the Secretary of State”. Although the government has been busy bringing the date forward for marriages, they have dragged their feet on the section nine procedure. Those couples will not be able to get married until later this year (the exact date is not known yet) which means bizarrely that those who chose to make the only formal legal commitment available to them up to this point are in a worse position than those who did not make that legal commitment.

For the time being, the only way around this problem is for civil partners to dissolve their civil partnership through a legal process similar to divorce and for the same sex couple to then marry post-29th March 2014. However, unless they are prepared to be dishonest, this is not a route available to them, because in order to dissolve the civil partnership their relationship must have broken down, which is clearly not going to be the case for those who are happy enough to want to marry!

It goes without saying that this anomaly has left many couples frustrated and angry. It is understood that some are mounting a legal challenge against the government (click here for the story) but it seems unlikely that this is going to result in them being able to marry before the conversion regulations are actually in force.

There seems no alternative but for these couples simply to wait it out.

For more information on how to dissolve a civil partnership, you can visit the gov.uk website.

Nigel Shepherd

Family Law Partner

Manchester


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