So David Cameron has taken on the baton for the LGBT community in pushing the UK forward to being potentially the 10th European country and the 15th in the word to legalise same-sex marriages. But does it really matter?
At present those in civil partnerships enjoy the same rights in family law as those in a marriage together. The law in England & Wales already takes into account those years before a couple entered into a civil partnership if the period of cohabitation led “seemlessly” into a partnership. For example if ceremony took place for a couple in 2006 but they have been in a committed relationship since 1980 then the Court, if the civil partnership was to be dissolved, would say this was a very long relationship i.e. from 1980 to 2013 the same as it would do on considering a divorce. Accordingly family law solicitors would advise that the Court would impose an Order dividing the assets up which may include maintenance for one partner (potentially for the rest of that person’s life), pension sharing, a lump sum or orders relating to properties.
Is the new Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act needed?
There is an argument by some in the LGBT community are quite happy with their own legal identity under the Civil Partnership Act 2005. Interestingly a number of heterosexual couples have voiced concerns that they are discriminated against by the introduction of the 2005 Act as they cannot, at present, enter into a civil partnership but only a marriage and are taking their challenge to the European Courts. So with one hand the government introduced legislation to resolve one inequality yet created another, knowingly or not. It seems that the government was about to make the same mistake again until the opposition stepped in to table suggestions/amendments to remove the inequality created under the 2005 Act at the same time as removing the inequality with marriage. It all seems common like sense to me.
With the new Same Sex Couples Act this gives the opportunity for those to “convert” their civil partnerships into a marriage; I’m not entirely sure that is an appropriate term for the LGBT community. But what will happen with marriages? Can those married similarly “convert”? Only time will tell, that is of course if the legislative amendments are agreed not only by the House of Commons but also the Lords and this is by no means guaranteed. Whatever the outcome I do hope that wedding lists won’t be circulated again!