The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 received Royal Assent in July 2013 and has been brought forward to come into force on 29 March 2014 leading to the first same-sex marriages. Under section 9 of the Act, couples wishing to convert their civil partnership into marriage may do so. However, due to delays in implementing this important part of the Act, couples who have previously entered into civil partnerships will be delayed in being able to get married.
A couple in Barnsley, who have been in a civil partnership since 2008, had planned to convert their civil partnership into marriage on 29 March 2014 and had even bought their suits and a wedding cake in anticipation of the event. They described receipt of the news that they would not be able to marry until later due to this technicality as a ‘huge bombshell'. Consequently the couple are threatening legal action against the government since under current legislation they would need to obtain a dissolution of their civil partnership before they could marry.
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) have said that ‘new procedures' are required before the conversion can take place. A DCMS spokeswoman said: ‘We aim to do this before the end of 2014. It will take a little longer because we need to introduce completely new procedures and processes. This contrasts with the work to make new marriages for same sex couples possible where we have been able to build on existing processes, so implementation is more straightforward.'
Couples who are not already in a civil partnership wishing to be among the first to marry will need to give formal notice of their intention by 13 March 2014.