Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013

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Following legislation which received Royal Assent in July last year, same sex couples are now able to formally give notice of their intention to marry, with the first marriages taking place from 29 March.

Family lawyer, Nina Lake highlights the main points of the act.

What does the Act say? Same sex couples can now have a religious marriage ceremony. However, there is no obligation or compulsion on religious organisations or individuals to carry out or participate in a religious marriage ceremony of a same sex couple.

Does the Act remove the availability of civil partnerships for same sex couples? No. Couples can still enter into civil partnerships as opposed to marriages if they prefer to do so. Those in a civil partnership can also convert their relationship to a marriage if they want to. A married person can also legally change their gender without ending their existing marriage.

What does the law say in regards to international relationships? Same sex couples can marry in a territory outside England and Wales providing certain criteria, as set out in the Act, are met including that at least one person is a UK national, the people would have been eligible to marry in the UK, the authorities in the territory of the marriage ceremony do not object and there are insufficient facilities for them to enter into a marriage under the law of the overseas territory.

Are there any differences between a marriage surrounding a married man and woman and that of same sex couple? There are some differences. For example, the common law presumption that a child born to a married woman is also the child of her husband does not extended to marriages of same sex couples. Non-consummation can also not be a ground on which marriage of a same sex couple is voidable.