Further to my colleague Eleanor Aguirre’s blog of 26th July 2012, progress is being made in relation to legalising gay marriage. It has been reported in the press this week that a law allowing gay marriage is imminent and that David Cameron and Nick Clegg are expediting legislation which could mean that it is approved in just a matter of weeks.
At present, same sex couples are only able to enter into what is known as a civil partnership. A civil partnership affords same sex couples with practically all of the same legal rights as a married couple, particularly if they separate. However, there is a clear distinction in the terminology. A gay couple cannot legally refer to themselves as married and should they separate it is a dissolution not a divorce. It is understood that the new legislation will enable same sex couples to enter into a civil marriage but how far it will go to ensure equal rights are achieved is uncertain. It would seem that the legislation will not force changes on religious organisations so same sex couples are unlikely to be able to marry say in a church if the church stands firmly opposed to it.
Although there is much debate about whether gay marriage should be legalised, from a divorce lawyer’s perspective, whether it is a civil marriage or a civil partnership, may have little impact on how the courts deal with matters if the relationship sadly ends. The same case law currently applies to those divorcing and those dissolving their civil partnership.
It is important that people are aware of their rights and choices at the outset of any relationship, as the law stands now, and again should changes be implemented in the future. Advice from an expert family lawyer is essential to ensure you are fully aware of your legal position.