So can same-sex couples get married now?
The first same-sex marriages in Scotland are expected to take place in October this year. Some amendments have to be made to the Equality Act by the UK Parliament, and it will also take some time for procedures and administration to be sorted out. The government will announce a commencement date in due course, which is when marriages can start happening.
When civil partnerships were first brought in, early registration was sometimes allowed in special circumstances, e.g. where one of the parties was terminally ill, so the government may decide to do the same again.
Can we get married in a church?
Usual lawyer response: It depends.
The Bill has provision in it to let religious bodies apply for their ministers to be allowed to conduct same-sex marriages. This is separate from them being allowed to conduct marriages between people of different sexes, so just because they can do one does not mean they will do the other. What's more, individual ministers will not be allowed to solemnise same-sex marriages unless their religious body has applied for them to be able to do so.
Some religious bodies have already said they want to be able to do this, including Quakers, Liberal Judaism and the Unitarian Church, however the Catholic Church and Church of Scotland have stated they have no plans to do so.
What should I do if I am already in a civil partnership?
The Bill does not affect the validity of your existing civil partnership, so if you are happy with it already then there is nothing you need to do.
If you want to be married instead, there are two options:
- Get married: Couples who are already in a civil partnership will be able to get married without having to dissolve their civil partnership first. The civil partnership will end on the date the marriage take place, but the marriage will be treated as having begun when the civil partnership began.
- Change your CP into a marriage: We're not sure yet how this is going to work, but Section 8 allows the government to set up a procedure for existing civil partners to change their partnership into marriage. It looks like there will be an application to complete and a fee to be paid, and the parties may have to appear before a registrar or celebrant. This process is to be set by regulations, so the government will be required to consult on these in due course. Again, the marriage will be treated as having begun when the civil partnership began.
Although it might seem disjointed to have these two options as each of them results in a marriage anyway, in fact it gives couples a choice: civil partners who were disappointed not to be able to have a marriage will be able to go through another ceremony using the traditional labels and marking their new status; whereas those for whom the difference between CP and marriage is just semantics can go through a simpler procedure to have it changed.
What if I still want to have a civil partnership?
No problem! The Bill does not take away the option of having a civil partnership, which will still be open to same-sex couples.
What else do I need to know?
Getting married or forming a civil partnership is an important life event which can have implications for your tax and succession planning. You will want to update your will and review any life policies. If you are unsure about anything, please get in touch for more information.