Monday, 20 October 2014

Conversion of Civil Partnerships to Marriages

The government has issued this press release:

Conversion of civil partnerships into marriage
From:Government Equalities Office and Nick Boles MP First published:15 October 2014

Revised regulations set out the process for the conversion of civil partnerships into marriages, giving couples more choice.

Couples in a civil partnership will have the option to convert it into a marriage before Christmas once regulations laid before Parliament today (15 October 2014) 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 conversion into a marriage with 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 which 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 1-stage option.

Further information

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
  • the new option of a 2-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 which 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 1-stage process will be free. The cost of providing the 2-stage process is higher as the procedure will take longer and the superintendent registrar will have to travel to the venue. People choosing the 2-stage process will have the same sum (£45) deducted from the total price.

The text of the draft regulations can be found here, and there is a PDF version here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 20 October 2014 at 3:30pm BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: equality legislation
Comments

Ah, well.
Better than I hoped, but still it seems I was married when I wasn't - that doesn't put me in controll, does it?
The government really have got themselves into a corner, it also means that all those entering a civil partnership are actually contracting a marriage, I guess there are many choosing a CP who won't be happy about that!
Made all the more idiotic by retaining CP ..... And for gays alone ...........

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Monday, 20 October 2014 at 5:56pm BST

Alleluia (?)

Posted by: Laurie R on Monday, 20 October 2014 at 6:31pm BST

It does put you in control. If you want to remain CP'd you don't have to convert. The anomaly is not that there is a stage between being married and not married, but that we were forced into a second class of marriage.

I would be hopping mad if I converted my CP only to be told that my relationship until then had not been a marriage and that the real thing was only starting from the date of conversion.

T

Posted by: Erika Baker on Tuesday, 21 October 2014 at 9:26am BST

Does seem to have introduced a bit of chaos. When is a civil-partnered couple married? when they sign the agreement to marry, or when they were partnered in the first place. Is the period in between to be called 'Limbo'? And will it not exist if a C.P couple refuses to undertake the marriage option?

However. Better late than never, I say. And what will the Church make of such couples, I wonder? Will they now be considered legitimate?

Talk about Mickey Mouse

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Tuesday, 21 October 2014 at 9:31am BST

The above comments seem a bit ungracious to me.

There are many things I would criticise this Government for (don't get me started!) but it's work on same sex marriage seems to be praiseworthy.

It drove through the original law, against much opposition, then came out with set of regulations on converting the existing CPs to marriage. And when in the consultation many people expressed disquiet about the lack of a ceremony and marriage certificate in that conversion process, the draft regulations were quickly withdrawn and new ones issued which appear to meet the concerns expressed.

Yes it is a pity that we had to have this strange midway process of CP conversion, and it is a pity that the CofE is not welcoming it (at least at an openly expressed senior level).

But the new Government regulations do seem to be a valid effort to make the best of a situation not of the Governments choosing.

Simon

Posted by: Simon Dawson on Tuesday, 21 October 2014 at 10:23am BST

It really isn't that complicated.
If you would have married if you had been able to, you can convert your CP to a marriage certificate and you will consider to have been married from the day you would have married.

If you don't want to be married, don't convert your CP.

This hypothetical problem only arises if people wanted a CP until now and now would like to be married. That won't be possible.

I think we can live with that.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Tuesday, 21 October 2014 at 10:43am BST

Erica's perspective is another way to view this.
As I recall from the lobbies back then we were being specifically denied marriage and there was "clear blue water" between the two states
.......... No vows , no religious context, NO SEX! ...........
I remember smug bishops telling us to be happy with our lot ....

Then, as the raft of subsidiary legislation followed those same bishops began to realise that the government's actual intention was to make it difficult to slide a fag paper between the two (ooh!) ....... and they were not such happy bunnies.

Chris and I have seen ourselves as married for over 30 years, but we did not think of our CP as a marriage, we felt we had been denied, pushed into a ghetto ......
So, is this then a rise in rank from grade 2 marriage as we convert to grade 1?

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Tuesday, 21 October 2014 at 10:57am BST

Martin,
the no sex thing was always ever only what the church wanted to read into it.
The State made no assumption about sex. As, indeed, it does not about proper marriage, where not having sex does not invalidate a marriage.

As for 'no vows'... not the official marriage vows, no. But when we got CP'd we submitted a format that included promises to each other.
No Register office wedding includes faith, but we managed to fit some Christian poetry in too.
Because CPs were unchartered territory and there was no formal framework, we could do pretty much what we wanted.

I'm happy that the government and the country have come round to recognising that my CP was always a marriage.

I'm not holding out much for the church...

Posted by: Erika Baker on Tuesday, 21 October 2014 at 12:06pm BST

Hmmm. Not ungracious, but concerned at changes in marriage and how it is declared and recognised.
In this regard we stand in a long line of those who have protested and agitated against government forcing what it sees as marriage on unwilling couples.
Here we have government saying that marriage exists when I did not intend to contract it and without our declaration of intent or vows.
I understand marriage to be the exchange of promises before witnesses. The signing of a schedule in front of witnesses got me a civil partnership.
It is redefining marriage into something completely different to say it not publicly recognised as the exchange of vows a moment then recorded by the state in its registers when couple and witnesses who have had to see and hear these vows record it has happened.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Tuesday, 21 October 2014 at 1:18pm BST

....... And the government though having conceded in part, have stuck to their guns.
The conversion is done first and then followed by whatever confection the couple choose.

Once again: not what I understand by marriage;not what I would prefer and definitely not in my control.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Tuesday, 21 October 2014 at 2:58pm BST

"Here we have government saying that marriage exists when I did not intend to contract it and without our declaration of intent or vows."

I don't know how you read that into the proposals.
You are not currently married and the Government does not consider you married.
If you do not convert your CP you will remain not married.

If you do want to convert the assumption is that you would have married at the time, if you could have. That's all.
And you can have the full ceremony, vows and all.

Where's the problem?

Posted by: Erika Baker on Tuesday, 21 October 2014 at 4:32pm BST

Certainly at the time CPs were announced the significant difference was the absence of sex from its requirements, it was a significant and striking variation.
While things have changed somewhat!
Sex is still a matter that differentiates between what was and what is, perhaps this section might help https://www.gov.uk/how-to-annul-marriage

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Tuesday, 21 October 2014 at 7:11pm BST

Whatever has happened about Same-Sex Marriage - the big question remains: Does the Church of England recognise that a legally contracted married - not allowed to be celebrated in Church - is actually a marriage? Or not? And will the C. of E. in any way recognise such marriages, which happen to be lawful?

There is a slight comparison to register office conducted heterosexual marriages, which are acceptable to, and recognised by, the Church.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Wednesday, 22 October 2014 at 8:37am BST

Martin,
yes, the lack of one (!) instance of sex always made a straight marriage voidable. Never void.
Sex is not a requirement for a marriage to be valid.

The problem was that "sex" in a straight marriage is a clearly defined act. Nothing else counts. And it happens to be one that gay couples are incapable of. That doesn't mean they're incapable of what people in generally call "sex", as the whole furore over gay relationship clearly proves.

It's just that not having had one single act of gay sex once does not make a Civil Partnership voidable.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 22 October 2014 at 10:53am BST

I am delighted that this development meets with Erica's wholehearted approval and while I see the logic of her argument (one the government supports) which might appear somewhat prescient,I am clearly less sanguine and it would seem from the exchange I start from a different premise.

We do plan to be married.
My "problem" is that my marriage certificate will be dated from the time of the civil partnership. I am not in control, a request to date it from our marriage will be refused. We do have a nuclear option - we can have our CP dissolved ............

I wonder, will married couples be able to convert their marriage to a civil partnership and if they can, will they too discover they have been civilly partnered all the time? Or having been civilly partnered and subsequently married, can one revert or reconvert and erase the marriage completely from the record?

I guess this transition is a little difficult - but it does not seem so difficult to me to imagine a recording system that is at least accurate. So that In the section on the marriage certificate for status it doesn't say spinster or divorced, but says:
Marrying civil partner.

I'm sorry if folk think my objection is petty or misplaced. It is how I feel.

As regards other clergy like me who may be very reticent, they can nip down the Registrars and complete in a jiffy.......... Now, will that then mean that any job/licence they have been granted since their CP/marriage is now null and void?
Will they be getting backdated rebukes?
Will they bother to tell anyone?

We are bound to end up with an increasingly large number of clergy who just don't tell.
What a mess ......


Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Wednesday, 22 October 2014 at 3:08pm BST

Sorry to post so often, but it is something of interest to me.

It is, I hope, worth repeating an observation I made on a much earlier thread.
The government (once) made much of the fact that what distinguished civil partnership from marriage was that this was a silent process requiring only a declaration of the intent to form a civil partnership and own up to your name and signature before witnesses, NO promises/vows ..... Nada ........

The arrangements for conversion are not a temporary arrangement, they will remain in place. This gives access to marriage, on a permanent basis, without having to say any declaration of intent or promises/vows.
I think this permanently changes the character of marriage and I sincerely regret this departure from custom and practice.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Wednesday, 22 October 2014 at 4:24pm BST

Martin,
I apologise if my comments appeared dismissive!
I genuinely find it difficult to see why you feel so strongly about this but that doesn't mean that I don't fully support that, if you want CPs and marriage to be shown as two different steps, you should not be able to get that.

The clergy question is interesting. Presumably, priests will have to inform their Bishops that they have converted.
If they then get a rebuke, it will be for the conversion, quite irrespective of how long they are deemed to have been married for?

Will licenses issued since they got CP'd become null and void... once upon a time I would have said no chance. But the way the CoE is going and the way bishops have been making increasing fools of themselves, I'm no longer so sure about that. Someone somewhere might be tempted to test that one.
But that's a CoE problem, not a Government one.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 22 October 2014 at 8:01pm BST

It seems that I have not been clear about this.

One of my principal complaints is that gay people may now contract a marriage without solemn declaration or vows.

I think this transforms our understanding of marriage as well as how one becomes married.

I make other complaints above which I also think have some merit, but with the exception of amnesties, I generally find retroactive legislation uncomfortable at best.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Thursday, 23 October 2014 at 12:48pm BST

Martin, here, is clearly enunciating a very valid point. Despite the fact that a Same-Sex legal marriage is considered to be 'Equal Marriage' by the state; to convert from a C.P. to a Same-Sex Marriage one has no need to make Wedding Vows. Is it 'Equal' to a heterosexual Marriage? Maybe not - on such a premise.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Wednesday, 29 October 2014 at 9:40am GMT
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