Labour MP Chris Bryant today jokingly used a link to a play about gay Conservatives to raise the question of why it is taking the Government possibly up until the end of 2014 to allow conversions from civil partnerships to marriage.
Speaking in the House of Commons today, the Rhondda MP made the tenuous link between children’s participation in the arts, and the issue of how long gay couples already in civil partnerships will have to wait before they can convert them to marriages.
Addressing Ed Vaizey, MP for Didcot and Wantage and Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries, Mr Bryant used the play Tory Boyz, by the National Youth Theatre, which is about gay Tories.
He said: “This is a very convoluted question, so I hope the Minister will bear with me. I just wonder whether he has had an opportunity to see the National Youth Theatre production of ‘Tory Boyz’, which I am told is about a lot of homosexual Conservatives. They, among many others, might want to ask the Government why they are taking such a long time to allow the upgrade of civil partnerships to full same-sex marriages. He is having plenty of time to ask the Secretary of State now. Will he bring it forward a bit faster?”
After the speaker, despite saying that the question “was not orderly”, he said he would allow the question.
Mr Vaizey simply replied: “I, for one, have stood by in complete admiration of the Secretary of State’s magnificent work in bringing forward same-sex marriage, and I think she stands to be commended and not criticised for her brilliant work on this issue.”
Later, Mr Bryant addressed the issue again, saying: “I warmly congratulate the Government on announcing that the first same-sex marriages will take place on 29 March, not least because this is Norman Tebbit’s birthday—so that’s one in the eye for the bigots, isn’t it? Will the Government explain next week, however, why they are delaying for so long the introduction of the upgrades to same-sex marriages for those currently in civil partnerships? France managed to do it a week after legislating, so why are we taking 18 months?”
Andrew Lansley, MP for South Cambridgeshire & Leader of the House of Commons responded to say that the delay was to do with a review of civil partnerships as a whole, whis the DCMS has confirmed is not the case.
He said: “I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman’s support for the announcement made by the Minister for Women and Equalities, my right hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke (Maria Miller), about the opportunity on 29 March. My recollection is that the legislation includes a requirement for a review of the situation relating to civil partnerships, so I suspect that is one thing that needs to be proceeded with in the first instance.”
A DCMS spokesperson told PinkNews: “The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act requires the government to carry out a review of the operation and future of the Civil Partnership Act 2004 in England and Wales.This is a completely separate piece of work not linked to the implementation of marriage of same sex couples.
“We are continuing to work hard to ensure that couples wanting to convert their civil partnerships into marriages and 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.”
In an announcement earlier this week 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.