When and how can existing Civil Partnerships be converted to Marriage?
The latest figures available show that there are 60,454 civil partnerships currently registered in the UK.
Same-sex couples who are thinking of solidifying their relationship can now choose to do so with either a civil partnership or a civil marriage, with the latter option being available since March this year.
The first step towards equality for same-sex couples came in the form of the Civil Partnership Act, which came into force on 5 December 2005. This allowed same-sex couples to sign a document which gave them the same legal rights as married couples. However, the government at the time were at pains to point out this process was not a ‘marriage’ and therefore in the eyes of many this step did not go far enough.
Fast forward now to today and the opportunity for same-sex couples to marry or have their existing civil partnerships recognised as a marriage is seen as another major step towards equality. This right has been strongly campaigned for by various organizations and although there is no legal difference between the rights afforded to civil partnerships and married couples, the main argument amid campaigners had been that in the interests of equality, marriage should be available to all.
From the 10th December 2014, same-sex couples in England and Wales who are currently in a Civil Partnership can, if they wish to, convert their Partnership into a marriage. The marriage will be treated as existing from the date of the registration of the civil partnership in accordance with the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013.
The Government Equalities Office confirmed that a full, backdated marriage certificate will be issued to couples, not a ‘certificate of conversion’ as previously speculated. For those who have registered their civil partnership in England and Wales a fee of £45 can be paid to convert a civil partnership. Further, if a civil partnership was registered before 29 March 2014 the £45 fee will be waived until the 9 December 2015.
The original announcement by the then Equalities Minister Sajid Javid only made allowance for conversion ceremonies to be held in Registry Offices, however if couples choose to, they can now hold their ceremony at an approved venue of their choice, including religious premises registered for marriages of same-sex couples.
Minister for Skills and Equalities Nick Boles said:
“This puts couples in control. They have the choice of whether they would like a simple conversion or would prefer to celebrate the occasion with a ceremony.”