Culture Secretary Sajid Javid has confirmed that from December 2014 couples will be able to convert their civil partnerships into marriages.
Same sex couples first received the right to marry in March 2014 under the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013, prior to which they were only permitted to enter into civil partnerships as per the Civil Partnership Act 2004. Now those who have already entered into a civil partnership can have their civil partnership turned into a legal marriage.
The process for conversion is fairly simple. Both parties of the civil partnership will need to sign a declaration in the presence of each other and in front of the superintendent registrar in order to become legally married. The fee for such a conversion is £45.00 and the parties will be issued with a marriage certificate once the process is complete.
Critics question why, when civil partnerships exist, same sex couples need to get married. After all, civil partnerships are legal relationships and enable parties to have the same rights as a spouse in terms of inheritance, immigration, pension provisions and child maintenance. However civil partnerships are only civil procedures and are not the same as religious weddings or civil marriages. In addition, many believe that by creating a different form of partnership for same sex couples compared to different sex couples, a message is being sent to society: homosexual relationships are not as valid as heterosexual ones.
It is clear, however, that the introduction of same sex marriage is seminal for equality campaigners and takes a further step to remove legal differences between heterosexual and homosexual relationships.
Amarjit Atwal, Paralegal