The government has begun a consultation exercise, seeking views on how to lift the ban on same-sex couples marrying in a civil ceremony.
Current legislation allows same-sex couples to enter into a civil partnership, but not civil marriage. The consultation will look at how to remove this barrier and bring about equal civil marriage.
The consultation will not change how religious organisations define and solemnize religious marriages i.e. marriages through a religious ceremony and on religious premises.
The government has already introduced civil partnership registrations on religious premises, and this option will remain open to same-sex couples on the same basis i.e. this is voluntary for faith groups and there can be no religious content during the civil partnership registration.
The government is seeking views on the following proposals:
- to open civil marriage ceremonies to same-sex couples;
- to make no changes to religious marriages – these will continue to remain only legally recognised if between a man and a woman;
- to retain civil partnerships for same-sex couples and allow couples already in a civil partnership to convert it into a marriage; and
- to allow people to stay married and legally change their gender.
Following the conclusion of the consultation, the government plans to introduce any required legal changes by the end of this Parliament.
The proposals will also have an impact on transgender people. Currently, those seeking to change their legal gender have to legally end their existing marriage or civil partnership. Under the consultation, couples will be able to remain married if one of the parties decides to change their legal gender. For those in a civil partnership, they will have the option to convert this into a marriage.