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Leading Family Lawyer Vikram Kumar on proposed Civil Partnership reform

It has been announced that the Home Office has launched a consultation on how to introduce plans to enable Civil Partnerships to be converted to marriages. The idea behind the consultation is that the Home Office acknowledges that since the introduction of the Civil Partnership Act 2004, same sex couples receive access to similar legal rights as married couples with the exception of being able to refer to themselves as married which is deemed to be unacceptable.

It is also accepted that the level of commitment between civil partners is as significant as the commitment between heterosexual couples and therefore it is only right that they are provided with the opportunity to recognise that commitment through marriage.

The proposed changes are summarised as follows:

1. To enable same-sex couples to get married through civil ceremonies and to allow couples currently in a Civil Partnership the option to convert this into a civil marriage

2. To retain Civil Partnerships for same-sex couples but to include the ability for Civil Partnership registration to occur on religious premises. Although, the ban on any religious elements forming part of the registration will remain

3. To allow transsexual people to change their legal gender without having to legally end their existing marriage or civil partnership, which is currently the case

4. To make no changes on how marriages are solemnised.

This could have a further bearing on dissolution proceedings, as currently the concepts of non-consummation and adultery do not apply to Civil Partnership Law. The removal of a ban on same sex couples having a civil marriage will mean these concepts will then start to apply. It is anticipated that case law will need to develop to formulate a definition as to what constitutes same-sex consummation and same-sex adultery.

The consultation is due to close on 14th June 2012.