Same Sex Marriage
As from the 29th March 2014 the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2014 came into force.
There is, however, some confusion as to what the law actually means. The key points are:-
1) It will be legal for same sex couples to marry in England and Wales.
2) Same Sex Couples can have either a civil or a religious ceremony, but a religious ceremony can only take place if the religious group elects to opt-in.
3) The differences between civil partnership and marriage are minimal in practice. However, Civil Partnership remains an option for Same Sex Couples.
4) Same Sex Couples already in civil partnerships can convert their partnership into a marriage if it was registered in England and Wales (In Scotland, Northern Ireland or abroad the civil partnership will have to be dissolved before the couple can marry). However, the Government have yet to decide the mechanism by which this happens, and so, at present, those in a civil partnership cannot marry their partner without first formally dissolving their civil partnership. This involves issuing a petition for the dissolution of the relationship, and involves a court fee of £410 plus legal fees, and you cannot dissolve the partnership on the basis that you wish to marry. In order to dissolve the partnership, one has to show that the partnership has irretrievably broken down, and in order to do so, one has to rely on one of 4 facts, namely unreasonable behaviour, 2 years separation (with consent), 5 years separation, or 2 years desertion....an interesting way to get married !
It may be that such couples are better advised to wait until the law changes. This is not expected to be addressed until late 2014.
5) Civil Partners cannot dissolve their partnership on the grounds of adultery. Same sex marriages can be so dissolved, but the adultery must take place with a member of the opposite sex.
There is no harmonisation of international attitude towards same sex marriage, so it may not be recognised by countries who themselves do not allow such marriages.