Since 2005, same sex couples have been able to enter into civil partnerships in England and Wales. Although civil partnerships are not marriages, they do offer most of the legal benefits.
There is general support for gay marriage in England. In June 2012, a YouGov survey showed that 71% of people polled were in favour of same sex marriage. Similarly, the Government consultation period on same sex marriages revealed that 53% of the population believed that they should be able to have a civil marriage ceremony if they chose.
However, there have been campaigners opposing the legislation; the Catholic Church, Muslim Council of Britain and Rabbinical Council of the United Synagogue have all opposed the legislation. The Government received 19 petitions from faith groups, with over 500,000 signatures opposing same sex marriage.
This new legislation will bring the English matrimonial law in line with European law; France introduced same sex marriage in April 2013. The Marriage and Civil Partnerships Bill (Scotland) is also currently passing through the Scottish Parliament which, if it becomes law, will also legalise gay marriage.
Previously, some gay couples have married abroad and then returned to England, but because same sex marriages were not legally recognised in England, they were instead converted into civil partnerships. In August 2003, a female couple married in British Columbia, Canada, fought to have their marriage legally recognised in England, their arguments were rejected by the High Court in 2006 and they were ordered to pay £25,000 in legal costs to the Attorney General. Under the new Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, those who have civil partnerships will be able to convert them into marriages.
France has signed agreements with several countries banning ex-patriots from marrying under the new Marriage for All law. Countries such as Morocco, Poland, Serbia and Tunisia do not currently allow same sex marriage. The rules relating to marriage of ex-patriots in England differ and under existing legislation, those living abroad can return to England to marry if they satisfy certain conditions. This may cause complications if their marriage is not recognised in the country they live in, or if they wish to dissolve the marriage and divide assets they have acquired abroad.Back to Blog