Wedded Bliss For Civil Partners…?
On 29 March 2014, the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Act 2013 comes into force, which legalises same sex-marriages for the first time. However, the government has announced that section 9 of the Act, which allows for conversion of a civil partnership into a marriage, will not come into force before the end of 2014. Until that time, those already in a civil partnership will not be able to marry until they have formally dissolved their civil partnership – if that sounds a little bit bonkers, you’d be in good company.
Paul and Michael Atwal-Brice, who are currently civil partners, had planned to become one of the first couples to convert their marriage when the legislation comes into force. They are now seeking judicial review over the government’s failure to implement section 9 of the Act on the basis that it breaches British equality and human rights law.
The government has not yet decided how same-sex couples can convert their civil partnership to marriage but the conversion process will ensure that couples in civil partnerships do not have a break in their legal relationship, which could have implications for matters such as their pension entitlements.
This highlights the anomaly that those already in a civil partnership may have won the right to be married more quickly if they had not taken advantage of their legal right to enter into a civil partnership. As such legal questions have been left unanswered; it is thought that the first civil marriages will not take place until early next year.