So What Exactly Is Gay Marriage?

Same sex marriages are introduced in England and Wales from 29 March 2014, but gay couples will also still be able to opt to have a Civil Partnership.

It’s a massive step in equality that gay rights activists have been battling for, for years, but what is the big hoo har about?

There’s been a lot of media coverage on the Same Sex marriage bill, but it’d be useful, we think, to outline exactly what it all means.

In essence, as you’ll see below, this big change makes little practical difference. Whether you’re already engaged or not it’s something that sooner or later you’re probably going to need to know about, here’s our quick guide to same sex marriage.

The Civil Partnership Act 2004 which introduced Civil Partnerships (a massive step in the right direction for gay people) from 5 December 2005.

The rights following entering into a Civil Partnership were much the same as marriage; inheritance tax, property rights, parental responsibility all mirrored their heterosexual counterparts (i.e. Married couples).

One fundamental difference was that the language used in relation to Civil partnerships differed, for instance instead of divorce, if a Civil Partnership breaks down the couple seek a dissolution.

Speaking of relationship breakdown, if it all goes wrong and the relationship can’t continue, adultery is not a ground for dissolution, but in practical terms this has little impact.

The only reason that adultery is not a ground is the laws definition of adultery (penetrative sex between a man and a woman where one of the parties is married), so it’s simply a technicality (all lawyers love a technicality and I, it seems, am no different.)

In fact, if a member of a same sex couple was unfaithful, their solicitor would most likely cite their unreasonable behaviour and state that the relationship was intolerable for the other. This is often a fact that heterosexual marriages cite to avoid “blaming” the other party for the split, despite the availability of “adultery“.

The language used between weddings and Civil Partnerships differs both during the ceremony and afterwards.

For instance, legally, you can’t say you’re married if you’re actually in a civil partnership (and vice versa), this of course is only applicable for official documents/forms etc.

Colloquially, couples in a CP will address their other half as wife (or husband), and there’s no problem with that.

It is not compulsory that a person agrees to conduct a same sex marriage, you’ve probably heard that some religions are opting out. This is one of the major changes; it will be possible to marry in some religious places. Previously anything with religious connotations (hymns, readings, something else) were not allowed in Civil Partnerships.

If you’re already in a CP and wish to be married to your partner then fear not!

If you so wish, by the end of 2014, you will be able to convert you CP into a marriage.

You might wish to have a celebration but this is, in essence, purely procedural and won’t alter the rights that you have.

Hopefully this brief crib sheet has answered all the pressing questions you had.

If you ask me, whether you choose to have a marriage or a civil partnership all that matters is that your head over heels in love.


Laura loves tea and cakes and kittens. She’s an obsessive planner, but also rubbish at sticking to plans and a terrible parker (She passed her driving test eighth time, out of sheer luck.) Scribbling’s not her day job but here’s where she does it: I Shout When I Whisper.



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