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Do Same Sex Marriages Really Provide Equality?

By Solicitor, Family Law

Same sex couples in England & Wales will be legally entitled to convert their civil partnership into a marriage from December 2014. Couples who wish to convert their civil partnership into a marriage can do so by simply filing a form so that there is no need to hold a ceremony.

However, the process has been met with criticism from same sex couples who feel that it does not provide equality for those wishing to convert their civil partnership into a marriage in this way. Couples have been told that they cannot hold a formal ceremony even if they wish to but instead the conversion will be a paper exercise that can only take place at register offices during business hours on Monday to Friday.

A couple in Devon who are hoping to convert their civil partnership into a marriage have launched an online petition calling for UK government to rethink the conversion ceremony. It is understood that the government is looking to review the draft regulations.

For couples who do convert their civil partnership into a marriage, the law of England & Wales will apply to the marriage in the same way that it would to a marriage that has taken place between heterosexual couples. The exception to this is that married couples of the same sex will not be able to petition for divorce on the grounds of adultery, or to have their marriage annulled on grounds of non-consummation. In addition, pension inheritance rights are often fewer on the death of a same sex marriage spouse than a spouse of the opposite sex.

When a civil partnership is converted into a marriage, the civil partnership will come to an end and the marriage will be treated as though it had existed from the date of the civil partnership.

Whether the UK government will rethink the practicalities surrounding the conversion of civil partnerships into same sex marriages is not known, but if they really want to provide equality then it looks like this is the only option.

Joanne Green is a Family Law & Divorce Solicitor at Slater and Gordon Lawyers in Manchester.

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