Couples across England and Wales who are already in civil partnerships have expressed disappointment at being told they will have to wait longer than couples who are not, to change to marriage when the law changes in March.
Despite the Government’s announcement yesterday that the first same-sex marriages will be held earlier than expected on 29 March 2014, a date on which those already civilly partnered can convert to marriage has not been set, and have only indicated by the end of 2014 so far.
An announcement is due to take place in coming weeks.
A DCMS spokesperson said: “We are continuing to work hard to ensure that couples wanting to convert their civil partnerships into marriages, are able to do so as soon as possible. We aim to do this before the end of 2014.
“It will take a little longer because we need to introduce completely new procedures and processes. This contrasts with the work to make new marriages for same sex couples possible, where we have been able to build on existing processes so implementation is more straightforward.”
Speaking to PinkNews, Rabbi David Mitchell, a rabbi in the Reform Judaism movement said: “I don’t know what to say, my phone rang all day yesterday from same-sex couples wanting to change to marriage. Most couples I have spoken to are already in civil partnerships.
“We’ve waited so long to be able to say we are married, and we are being told by the Government that we will have to wait longer again.”
Saying that he is in a civil partnership himself, Rabbi Mitchell went on to express disappointment at having to tell at least four couples who had contacted him that they would have to wait.
One Twitter user LizChelseaStar said: “I think it’s really unfair if we have to wait to convert Civil Partnership to Equal Marriage till the end of 2014 #disappointed”
Others took to Twitter to say they were confused by yesterday’s announcement, and whether to upgrade at all.
Amanda Giles said: “I must confess, i am still confused about when i can ‘upgrade‘, should we choose, our civil partnership to Marriage? Probably won’t.”
In the announcement, the DCMS said that it was working on ensuring that couples in civil partnerships could convert to marriage as soon as possible, and gave a time frame of before the end of 2014.
Expanding on changes which need to be made, in order to allow civilly partnered couples to convert, the DCMS said that IT systems would need to be changed, with training and guidance for operational staff, legislative changes, and the design of new application forms.
It is expected that a small fee will be required for those wishing to convert civil partnerships to marriage.
Yesterday’s announcement also noted that same-sex couples who married abroad would be treated as married, rather than as civil partners (as they previously had been) from March 2014.
It also said that same-sex marriages in some British consulates and armed forces bases overseas would be possible, with military chapel weddings available from June 2014.