Gay couples who are in a civil partnership will be able to 'upgrade' it to marriage, complete with certificate, for 100Conversion would see same-sex couple able to change the legal status of their civil partnershipEquality campaigners condemn decision not to allow straight marriages to convert into civil partnershipsTory MP Peter Bone say it undermines marriage
20:35 GMT, 11 December 2012
Thousands of gay couples in civil partnerships will be able to ‘convert’ their relationships to marriage in return for a 100 administration fee.
Around 50,000 couples will be able to change the legal status of their relationship by simply filling in a form and popping it in the post along with a cheque to cover the cost of issuing a marriage certificate.
In effect, the change in the law will mean that some gay couples will be able to get married without even having a wedding, with the result that some couples could become married in secret.
Love-ly law: The new legislation means civil partners will be able to change the legal status of their relationship to marriage
But Tory MP Peter Bone said the decision would further undermine the status of marriage.
Mr Bone said: ‘The Government is sending out the very dispiriting message that it doesn’t care about marriage.
‘The idea that people will be able to get married by simply filling in a form and paying 100 is a further dilution of the institution of marriage that the Government claims to care about. That is clearly not what marriage means to millions of married couples in this country.’
Criticism: Tory MP Peter Bone says the Government's decision undermines the status of marriage
Documents issued by the Department for
Culture, Media and Sport yesterday suggested that couples in civil
partnerships will have a choice about whether or not to hold a separate
ceremony to mark the conversion of their relationship to marriage.
‘We will enable couples to have a ceremony upon conversion should they wish to do so.
'The ceremony would have no legal effect and would be similar to existing ceremonies allowing couples to renew their vows (and would therefore incur a separate cost).
Accordingly a couple would be able to have such a ceremony on religious premises, if agreed with the religious organisation and any representatives of that organisation who would be involved in the ceremony.’
Despite the change, married couples will not be able to convert their relationships into civil partnerships.
Officials said there was ‘no justification or requirement for introducing such a process’.
And, to the dismay of some campaigners, ministers refused to extend civil partnerships legislation to cover heterosexual relationships.
Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell
condemned the decision, saying: ‘Retaining the ban on opposite-sex civil
partnerships is a huge failing. It deprives heterosexual couples of
legal equality. I strongly support the right of straight people to equal
Wedding bells: If civil partners so wish they can have a ceremony to mark their conversion which would function as a renewing of their vows and not have any legal effect
He added: ‘Under the government’s plans, gay couples will soon have legal privileges over heterosexual couples.
‘There will be two forms of official state recognition for lesbian and gay couples: the present system of civil partnerships plus marriage. Heterosexual couples will have only one option – marriage.’
In a further change, heterosexual couples will no longer have to divorce if one partner has a sex change. If both partners agree they will be able to retain their married status.
The Government announced today that it will introduce a bill next year legalizing gay marriage – but banning the Church of England from conducting same-sex ceremonies.