The Government has published a consultation paper on the future of civil partnerships in England and Wales.
This is the full public consultation which was announced as part of the review of the Civil Partnership Act 2004 following the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013. The consultation runs until 17 April 2014, and you can read and respond to it here.
When the law on same-sex marriage for England and Wales was debated last year it was noted that this left civil partnerships in a peculiar situation of being only open to same-sex couples while marriage would now be open to all.
More than three times as many couples have taken up civil partnership as was anticipated at the time they were introduced.
Following the debates at Westminster the government promised to carry out a review of civil partnership law. That might cover whether they should continue to be offered, be opened up to mixed-sex couples, or scrapped either converting existing partnerships to marriage or letting them continue as they stand.
In a survey of readers of bisexual magazine BCN, a clear majority backed opening up civil partnerships to any couple, as well as marriage.
We’re another step closer to same-sex marriages being a reality in England and Wales as the government today published its response to the consultation paper ‘The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013: Shared Buildings Regulations’, which sought views on the procedures for registering for marriages of same sex couples religious buildings that are shared by more than one religious organisation.
A revised draft of the Marriage of Same Sex Couples (Registration of Shared Buildings) Regulations 2014 will be produced for consideration by Parliament in debates in both the House of Commons and the House of Lords. It is intended that the regulations will come into force in the early part of 2014 so that shared buildings can be registered to solemnize marriages of same sex couples if the qualifying sharing religious groups agree.
The response document reflecting over 70 responses is available here. The regulations will apply to England and Wales, though it is likely the Scottish government will implement something similar soon.
The Government today laid a series of ‘statutory instruments’ to be considered by Parliament which will put in place the fine detail of the same-sex marriage law passed last year. These will bring into force most of the provisions of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act for England and Wales and should mean the first marriages can take place on March 29th.
- make various changes to primary and secondary legislation that are needed as a result of the Act coming into force;
- set out the procedures for registration of places of worship and authorised persons for marriages of same-sex couples;
- set out procedures for registration of shared religious premises for marriages of same-sex couples;
- determine jurisdiction in proceedings for divorce, annulment or judicial separation of a marriage of a same-sex couple;
- extend graduated retirement benefit to married same-sex couples;
- make various related changes to certain public service pension schemes;
- set out procedures for registration of military chapels for marriages of same-sex couples;
- set out procedures for marriages (including of same-sex couples) in armed forces bases overseas;
- set out procedures for marriages (including marriages of same-sex couples) in British consulates.
These statutory instruments will be available on the Office of Public Sector Information website.
On Tuesday 4th February the Scottish Parliament will hold its final vote on Scotland’s same-sex marriage bill. The stage 3 debate on the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill will give MSPs a final chance to amend the Bill and then decide whether to pass it into law.
With less than two weeks to go Scottish campaign group the Equality Network are urging supporters of the Bill to ask our MSPs to support it and reject any amendments that would roll back LGBT equality.
They say: “We know that groups opposing LGBT equality will be lobbying hard to see negative amendments passed at this final stage, so please contact your MSPs and the party leaders now to prevent that happening.”
You can find out more on their website.
Final rally for equal marriage
On the day of the vote the Equality Network will be holding a final rally in support of the Bill. You’re welcome to join them outside the Scottish Parliament at 1pm on Tuesday 4th February. You do not need to register to attend the rally, but if you can please do as it will help with planning: see here.
Cause for cake!
Following the vote to legalise same-sex marriage in England and Wales earlier this year, the government has today published the timetable for implementation. The first same-sex weddings will be allowed to take place on Saturday 29th March 2014.
The Scottish Parliament’s equivalent bill to allow same-sex weddings in Scotland is still in process at Holyrood so it is likely that the law will not come into effect there until a few months later.
Those in civil partnerships who wish to ‘convert’ these to marriage will also have to wait a little longer.