Friday 22nd May 2015 is the day on which voters in Ireland will decide whether same sex marriage should be permitted in Ireland. If the vote is in favour, same sex couples will have the same civil right to marry as traditional male-female couples.
Same sex partnerships are not new in England. The Civil Partnership Act 2004, (which came into force in December 2005) allowed same sex couples to enter into Civil Partnerships. England has also seen the introduction of The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013, which came into force on 29th March 2014.
Same sex couples currently in a civil partnership can convert their civil partnership into a marriage and have the marriage back-dated to the date the civil partnership commenced. This is because it is assumed that, if it was legal to marry someone of the same sex prior to the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013, couples of the same sex would have done so as opposed to becoming civil partners.
In Ireland, however, to date same sex marriage has not been embraced. Ireland’s relationship with the Catholic Church plays a big part in that opposition as well as the divide in opinions between the old and the young on what constitutes a traditional family.
If voters in Ireland decide to go ahead with allowing same sex marriage to be part of their culture, Ireland would be the first country to approve same sex marriage through a popular vote.
The Differences Between a Same Sex Marriage and a Civil Partnership in England
There are legal differences between same sex marriages and civil partnerships. One of these differences is the formation of each contract. With a marriage, it is solemnised in a ceremony by each party reciting a specific set of vows and then signing the marriage register along with 2 witnesses. With a civil partnership, it is registered in a ceremony by each party signing the civil partnership document along with 2 witnesses and no vows are required to be spoken, but they can be if the couple wish.
Another difference is when it comes to relationship breakdown, a marriage ends in divorce and a civil partnership ends in dissolution.
Both marriages and civil partnerships can be ended only on the ground that the relationship has irretrievably broken down. The reasons are also almost identical save that adultery cannot be relied upon as a ground for a dissolution. It can be used as a ground to end a same sex marriage as long as the adultery took place with someone of the opposite sex.
If the referendum is passed, same sex marriage will provide same sex couples in Ireland with important rights and a sense of acceptance.
Our family law solicitors at Slater and Gordon Lawyers UK are experts in same sex marriages and civil partnerships and can give you legal advice before you commit to such a contract and also in the event of a separation. For an initial consultation with a family lawyer call us on freephone 0800 916 9055 or contact us online and we’ll be happy to help you.