Saturday 29th March 2014 was a historic day for Britain as same-sex marriage was finally legalised, marking a new era of equality. Several couples across Britain were ready to say their vows the moment the law changed, seconds after the clock struck midnight, vying for the much coveted title of being the first same-sex marriage in Britain.
The Prime Minister hailed the change in legislation as sending a ‘powerful message’ about the equality in Britain. Maria Miller, the Culture Secretary and the Minister for Women and Equalities described how ‘the principles of marriage underpin our society and, as society has evolved, so too has marriage. So, far from devaluing it, as some critics have said, in my view the extension of marriage to same-sex couples will strengthen it and ensure it remains as relevant and vibrant as it ever was.’
The Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Act came into force in July 2013 but it was not until 13th March this year that couples could apply to get married.
Scotland is set to follow suit as it announced in February that marriage for same-sex couples would be legalised later this year. Northern Ireland has no plans to change its current law which does not allow for same-sex marriage. It is hoped that these moves will inspire acceptance of same-sex couples in countries such as Nigeria, Uganda, Russia and India where such couples are currently criminalised for their sexual orientation.
Couples in civil partnerships can also elect to convert their civil partnership into marriage. However, such couples will have to hold their horse-drawn carriages, as the government has advised that this procedure will not be finalised until later on this year. In the meantime, the only way for a couple in a civil partnership to marry would be for them to dissolve the civil partnership and to then get married. Couples are warned of the consequences of this approach should one of them pass away in the period between dissolution and marriage when they won’t have the legal and financial protection of either civil partnership or marriage. Couples who do want to convert their civil partnership into marriage should hopefully take comfort in the fact that same-sex marriage is now possible and it is only a matter of time before it happens for them too.
Sir Elton John and his civil partner, David Furnish, have confirmed that they will marry as soon as possible. The flamboyant showman claims to only want a ‘low key wedding’ but we will believe that when we see it!
A comparison of civil partnership and marriage for same-sex couples can be found here.
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