Couples in a civil partnership will have the option to convert it into a marriage before Christmas once regulations laid before Parliament yesterday are approved.
This landmark change means couples in existing civil partnerships will be able to convert them into a marriage from 10 December this year.
Campaigners have called for a simple conversion into a marriage in a local register office, or couples can have a ceremony at an approved venue of their choice, including religious premises registered for marriages of same-sex couples.
Couples will be issued with a marriage certificate, which will show the marriage should be treated as existing from the date of the original civil partnership.
Minister for Skills and Equalities Nick Boles said:
'I know how important it is for couples to have the option of marriage available to them. This is the final stage in ensuring every couple has the option to be married.
'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.'
In July, the government laid draft regulations before Parliament based on responses to a public consultation that called for a simple process for conversion. The regulations have now been revised, taking into account views expressed over the summer.
The revised regulations - once approved by Parliament - give couples greater choice and still provide the religious protections, for any ceremony following a conversion into marriage, which are enshrined in the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013
For the first year, all couples who formed their civil partnership before 29 March 2014 (when marriage was extended to same-sex couples) will be able to receive a £45 fee reduction. This means there would be no cost for the one-stage option.
Couples will have the choice of:
- a simple process at a register office, which was outlined in the original regulations and now also includes a wider range of local authority offices where registrars have access to the necessary systems; or
- the new option of a two-stage process where a superintendent registrar or their deputy can complete the conversion at another venue - this will allow the couple’s family and friends to attend and a ceremony can follow immediately after.
The conversion can take place at a wide range of approved premises such as hotels, stately homes and religious premises that have been registered for the marriage of same-sex couples.
For the first year, all couples who formed their civil partnership before 29 March 2014 (when marriage was extended to same-sex couples) will be able to receive a £45 fee reduction. This means the one-stage process will be free. The cost of providing the two-stage process is higher as the procedure will take longer and the superintendent registrar will have to travel to the venue. People choosing the two-stage process will have the same sum (£45) deducted from the total price.