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Equal civil marriage for all genders

28 MAR 2013

Carolyn Naughton

University of Bedfordshire:

The quest for equal marriage for same sex and opposite-sex couples started over 40 years ago and is hopefully nearing its concluding chapter. In February 2013, the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill started its course through Parliament. It aims to introduce an equal civil marriage regime for everyone through modifications to the current marriage regime. Whilst representing a welcome step in the direction of equality, the creation of an equal civil marriage regime is not without its problems, in particular insofar as some notions and concepts taken from the current (opposite-sex) marriage regime do not readily transpose to same-sex marriages. The present discussion focuses on two facets of the current marriage regime, namely consummation and adultery, which, at least as currently defined, are clearly not suitable to be mechanically transposed to same-sex couples.  The article discusses the government's proposal to retain the concept of consummation in relation to opposite-sex couples only, and to retain adultery, as currently defined, as a ground for divorce applicable to same-sex and opposite-sex couples. The author concludes that the proposed approach will continue to create inequality and discrimination within the marriage regime and that the only viable way forward to ensure a truly equal marriage regime for all is to remove the concept of consummation and adultery altogether. 

The full version of this article appears in the April 2013 issue of Family Law.

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