On 21st September 2010, the Liberal Democrats became the first major political party to formally endorse same-sex marriage, when the party’s conference approved a policy motion called “Equal Marriage in the United Kingdom”.

In February 2011 the government declared its intention to begin a consultation to allow both religious same-sex ceremonies and civil marriage for same-sex couples. In September 2011 an announcement followed of its intention to introduce same-sex civil marriage by the time of the next general election in 2015.

Civil Partnership Rings

On 17th September 2011, at the Liberal Democrat party conference, MP Lynne Featherstone announced that the government would launch a consultation in March 2012 on how to implement equal civil marriage for same-sex couples, with the intention of making any legislative changes by 2015.

“Britain must not be complacent” she said. “We are a world leader for gay rights but there is still more we must do.” While civil partnerships were a “welcome first step”, she said the party was committed to confronting “prejudice and discrimination in all its forms”, and “to deny one group of people the same opportunities available to another is not simply discriminatory. It is simply not fair.”

The Proposals

On 12th March 2012, the government launched its consultation on equal civil marriage in England and Wales.

These proposals are:

  • To enable same-sex couples to have a civil marriage i.e. only civil ceremonies in a register office or approved premises (like a hotel).
  • To make no changes to religious marriages. This would remain only legally possible between a man and a woman.
  • To retain civil partnerships for same-sex couples and allow couples already in a civil partnership to convert this into a marriage.
  • To continue to permit civil partnership registrations on religious premises as is currently possible. This is on a voluntary basis for faith groups and with no religious content.
  • To allow individuals to legally change their gender without having to end their marriage.

UPDATE: Since 2005, same-sex couples could form civil partnerships, a separate union which provided the legal protection and recognition of marriage. In March 2014 gay marriage became legal in the UK, with the first same-sex marriages taking place on 29th March 2014.

Guest post by Lester Gethings

Image from Flickr by Jeff Belmonte (CC By 2.0 License)