News Stories

Aug 29, 2013

What does same sex marriage actually mean?

The Marriage (Same Sex) Bill was given Royal Asset 17th July 2013 at 3.06pm. It is due to come into affect in Spring 2014 however, what does it mean legally and practically?

What is marriage?

The definition of marriage in 1866 in a case called Hyde v Hyde was that marriage is the voluntary union for life of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others. Society has changed dramatically since 1866 and the Marriage (Same Sex) Bill reflects this, allowing us to widen the definition to the voluntary union for life of one person and another to the exclusion of all others.

Are there any differences between being married rather than in a civil partnership?

Marriage will now be open to same-sex and heterosexual couples. Civil partnership, is only available to same-sex couples. Civil partnership was introduced against a background of objection to same-sex marriage, although there is little practical difference between marriage and a civil partnership. Civil Partners have the same rights as married couples in relation to: property, social security, pensions, inheritance tax, next of kin, and can acquire parental responsibility for a partner’s child.

The Bill provides for a review of civil partnership in light of the changes to marriage and will provide for a public consultation. One of the issues to consider will be whether to open civil partnership up to heterosexual couples.

Can we convert our civil partnership into a marriage?

If you have entered into a civil partnership it will be possible to convert your status to a married couple if your partnership was registered in England or Wales. There is no obligation to do this; it is a personal choice and decision for you as a couple.

Will there be a difference between same-sex marriage and heterosexual marriage?

Under the current provisions for same-sex marriage in the unfortunate event that the marriage breaks, regardless of whether it is a same-sex or a heterosexual couple, it will only be possible to rely on adultery in a divorce if that adultery takes place with a person of the opposite sex.

At present couples in a Civil Partnership cannot dissolve the partnership on the basis of adultery.

This has been a controversial approach and one that creates debate about whether equality has truly been achieved.

Can we get married in a Church?

You can have a civil or religious wedding, but it is only possible to have a religious wedding if the religious group “opts in” and with the exception of the Church of England this is an option open to all religions. 

Will our marriage be recognised abroad?

Same-sex marriage is becoming law in many countries across the world, including, most recently, France and New Zealand however there is no international harmonisation of the law to say your marriage will be recognised abroad. However, it is likely to be recognised in countries where same sex marriage is legal.

For more information and assistance please contact Gemma Davison at Johnson & Gaunt Solicitors on 01295 759410 or

01295 759400
01295 266451
Doc. Exchange
DX 24208 Banbury
Johnson and Gaunt Solicitors