The government has announced that it will be possible to convert civil partnerships into marriages from 10th December this year.
The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013, which came into force earlier this year caused great celebration. However, those who had already cemented their relationship by entering into a civil partnership were left out of the party.
Due to a range of legal complications couples who were already in a civil partnership were told that they could not convert their unions into marriage when the new Act came into force in March this year. There were more than 120,000 people in civil partnerships when statistics were last published in October 2013, and although not all of those who are in civil partnerships will want to convert to marriage, the legal delays have affected many.
The government has been criticised for the delays which have left many same-sex couples frustrated. Sir Elton has been particularly outspoken about the impact or the delays and told Sky News that his wedding to David Furnish, previously planned for this summer, will now be held next year because of the government “messing up”.
Sir Elton said: “We can’t get married this year because we had a civil partnership. I think the government kind of messed that one up. We can’t do it until next year”
However, it has now been announced that from 10th December this year, couples in civil partnerships will be able to get married by attending a register office and signing a declaration that they wish to be married in front of a registrar.
At a recently held consultation on what should happen to civil partnerships Sajid Javid, the Culture Secretary and an Equalities Minister, spoke about the upcoming changes:
“This is something that many, many people have been clamoring for since the first equal marriages took place in March, and the final preparations are well underway.
“You don’t have to have a big party to celebrate with all your friends and family, but I certainly won’t try and stop you if you do.”
Civil Partnerships for heterosexual couples?
However, this is not the end of the controversy that surrounds the introduction of same-sex marriage. Many people are still angry that same-sex couples now have more options than those in heterosexual relationships.
Peter Tatchell, the equal rights campaigner, said it was great that same-sex couples in civil partnerships will be able to convert. But he accused David Cameron of “betraying the principle of equality” by refusing to allow opposite sex couples to have a civil partnership.
“Same-sex couples now have a legal advantage over straight couples. They have two options: civil marriage and civil partnership. In contrast, opposite-sex couples have only one option: marriage. This is unjust and unfair,” he said.
“The government’s decision to retain civil partnerships is welcome. Not everyone wants to get married, given that marriage has a long sexist and homophobic history. It is right that all couples should have a choice.”