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Fee to be waived for couples converting a civil partnership to a marriage

  • This is an excellent measure, and we’ve raised it this morning with the Scottish Government – we’d like to see the same arrangement of fee waiver for Scotland.

    • Just to clarify – the fee waiver that is reported in this news story only applies to the English legislation, that is, for couples who registered their civil partnership in England and Wales. Couples who registered their CP in Scotland will be able to change it to a marriage under the Scottish legislation, which is also expected to come into effect in December, but the fee arrangements have not yet been announced. Unfortunately, couples who registered a CP in Northern Ireland will remain unable to convert to marriage, wherever in the UK they now live.

      • Dee

        The fee for applying for a Gender Recognition Certificate while REMAINING married currently is £140.

        • Yes. GRCs are too expensive, and the qualification requirements are too onerous. The new gender recognition legislation in Denmark is a better model.

  • Gerry

    Excellent news ! It will help to keep the UK No.1 place in Europe for gay people and to send a positive message around the world.

    Better still, it will encourage existing CPs to get upgraded to marriage. With any luck there won’t be any need for new CPs and they’ll become obsolete

    CPs are a bit like Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, which was progress of sorts at the time, but only a halfway house and thankfully now replaced with true equality.

    • There is likely to continue to be demand for new civil partnerships from couples who prefer that to marriage. Our survey work in Scotland indicates that a significant minority would prefer a CP to a marriage, and the statistics from the Netherlands and New Zealand, where both marriage and CP are available to same-sex and mixed-sex couples with very similar legal effects, show a continuing demand for civil partnership (in the Netherlands, that continues 13 years after same-sex marriage became available). We strongly support the opening up of civil partnership in Scotland to mixed-sex couples so that everyone has the same choices – that’s always been part of the equal marriage campaign in Scotland.

      • Ed Woody

        Can you clarify exactly what the difference is as regards UK law? If it’s purely ceremonial and/or religious, then I won’t bother. But if there additional legal rights, I’d like to know what they are.

        • There is virtually no difference in legal effects between CP and marriage in the UK. Adultery is not a basis for dissolution of CP, while it is a basis for divorce in marriage, but sexual infidelity can in any case be the “unreasonable behaviour” basis for dissolution or divorce, so that makes no significant difference in practice.
          Of course the fact that the legal effects of CP and marriage are the same was used by opponents of equal marriage to claim that we didn’t need equal marriage. Marriage and CP are different in meaning to people, regardless of the legal effects, and some people prefer one; some people prefer the other.

        • Robert W. Pierce

          A lot of people who prefer CPs over marriage also have to consider the larger picture, i.e. portability. In this global economy and freedom of movement, what if a CP’d couple moved to a country where equal marriage is legal, say France as one example, are they aware that PACs confer far fewer rights than a CP whereas marriage would be more equal? There is NO universal standard for CPs or other forms of legal unions for gay couples and isn’t likely to change let alone be the trend.

          • You’re right that it makes sense for people to consider, both for CP and same-sex marriage, what the international recognition picture is. In the Equality Network’s view, it’s not for us to say “Because your CP won’t get the same level of legal protection if you move to France, the law in the UK shouldn’t let you have a civil partnership at all.” It should be people’s own choice if they want a CP, knowing the situation in other countries.
            After all, same-sex marriages because are not recognised in 90% of the world, and in some countries, a couple in a UK same-sex marriage would not find things comfortable, to say the least. But that’s not a reason for the UK not to have same-sex marriage.

          • john

            It would be irresponsible for the UK govt to ignore the consequences of introducing straight CPs and then put those couples in a legal limbo with regards to international recongition. Civil unions in NZ or PACs in France don’t have the same requirement as marriage or CP when it comes to divorce or dissolution. If a French straight couples moves to the UK and want legal rights then it can easily get out of a PACS and do a marriage. You can’t with a British CP and a British CP stops you from doing anything else abroad. Marriages (straight!) are recognised everywhere, to compare the sitution with gay couples in a marriage or a CP being recognised abroad is pointless because gay couples are still DISCRIMINATED against in most countries of the world!!!!, straights are NOT.

          • Dewey

            we completely agree! we have a cp and live in France and in Spain and even though Cp is recognised as a pacs we are not allowed to marry here. In Spain Cp has no legal recognition and yet because we have a cp we can not marry and have no rights there neither so the quicker the whole cp upgrade happens the better !!

        • atalanta

          In relation to UK law, the two statuses are intended to be functionally identical (with one important exception). Both same-sex marriage and CP remain different from different-sex marriage in relation to historic pensions entitlements and grounds for dissolution/divorce, but if the pensions issue is resolved soon, as seems likely, those in CPs will almost certainly be allowed to benefit from this in the same way as those in same-sex marriages.

          The important exception is in relation to gender identity since the UK government has decided not to open CPs up to different-sex couples. Those in a CP wishing to remain in a legal relationship with their partner after transition will need to change to marriage.

          But when you travel to another country which recognises same-sex marriage, the two statuses may be treated differently. In France, for example, a CP will be considered equivalent to a PACS, while a marriage is a marriage; the two statuses do carry different rights in France, particularly in relation to inheritance and to property distribution on dissolution. In the US, a CP will be disregarded by the federal government, but a UK same-sex marriage will be valid for most US federal purposes (e.g. immigration). Some people’s experience has been that outside the UK marriage is given more weight than a civil union/CP when dealing with hospitals, schools etc.

          If you travel regularly, are considering emigration outside the UK, or have property abroad, you should consider converting – but get advice first to make sure marriage will benefit you in your particular situation.

          • Spanner1960

            In other words, absolutely bugger-all, except one immediately identifies one as homosexual, the other does not.

        • Ed Woody

          Thanks all for the responses!

      • Robert W. Pierce

        But yesterday, I learned that New Zealand’s civil unions have halved since equal marriage was introduced. Our own consultation to open CPs to straight couples revealed a majority of straight people (78% of them) didn’t want them while a very small number of gay couples preferred them. A meagre 11,266 responded to the consultation overall. Very poor result.

        • Yes the response rate and respondent profile for the England & Wales civil partnership review was disappointing. However, if only 10% of mixed-sex couples would prefer civil partnership (that’s the proportion who do in the Netherlands, and is not out of line with the England and Wales consultation results), that would be 25,000 new civil partnerships per year in England and Wales, a not insignificant number of couples!
          It’s not at all surprising that the rate of same-sex civil unions has halved in NZ, now that same-sex marriage is possible. Our consultation in Scotland indicated that 1 in 4 same-sex couples would prefer CP, and 3/4 would prefer marriage. That’s the same split as in the Netherlands. It’s a minority who prefer CP, but a significant minority, and in our view, they shouldn’t be denied that choice.
          Also, if we don’t continue with CP in Scotland, then people who get a registered partnership in another country and move here will no longer get any legal rights, as they’ll be no legal framework to recognise their relationship.

      • Rumbelow

        The one big distinguishing feature of CP’s from marriage was that they were invented as an EQUIVALENT of marriage for same sex couples only who remained barred from marriage per se.
        Opposite sex couples do not require an equivalent of marriage which is what a CP is, what they may require is a genuine ALTERNATIVE to marriage open to all couples perhaps exactly like the French PACS which has proved so popular there.
        CP’s should eventually be abolished and those already in a CP given the choice of converting to either a marriage or a UK PACS equivalent.
        Opening up CP’s to opposite sex couples doesn’t make much sense beyond, in this case, a silly insistence upon equality. in fact CP’s for opposite sex couples really trivialises the concept of equality in my opinion.

        • Spanner1960

          Civil partnerships were always a fudge and cynical compromise from the outset. They should be cast into the annals of so much other outdated legal flotsam and be regarded for what they were; the pathetic attempt to sit on the fence on the subject instead of having the balls to do what they finally ended up doing in the first place.
          (And yes Labour, I mean you.)

      • Spanner1960

        I cannot understand why people should “prefer” an inferior compromise.

        “Would sir like the Big Mac with large fries and the shake, or will you be sticking with the hamburger that’s been sitting on the shelf all day?”

        Some idiots will always be awkward if you give them an option.

    • People will either convert or they won’t, I don’t expect the fee will make all that much difference.

      • Spanner1960

        So just make it automatic and mandatory.

        • And this is why I find myself regretting the same sex marriage act.

          • Spanner1960

            Eh? I don’t follow.
            The government should just ditch the CPs and stick a marriage licence in the post.
            Job done.

          • Why?

            Not everyone who has/wants a CP wants a marriage. Based on the figures in the civil paternership consultation, polling data from the Equality Network in Scotland (nobody bothered to collect that data for England), and the experience of countries which have both a CP and equal marriage, probably about a third of same-sex couples and a quarter of mixed-sex couples would prefer a CP given the choice. About half of the people I know in civil partnerships do not want to convert.

            Not to mention, automatic conversion invites one hell of a lawsuit.

            What the government should do is equalise civil partnership and be done with it. What they are doing is burying their heads in the sand for fear of upsetting anybody in the run up to the general election.

          • Spanner1960

            There are always a few idiots that want to upset the applecart. We fought long and hard for marriage equality, not some ponced-up alternative to suit the Christians / Green party / knit-your-own-yoghurt brigade.

            The point is, there is no real difference except in name, so why run two parallel systems that serves no purpose?
            CP’s should always have ever been regarded as a stepping stone to marriage, and not an end in themselves.

            Had successive governments had the balls to just come right out with it and give us marriage in the first place, nobody would have batted an eyelid.

          • Everything you just said was said eighteen months ago to argue against same-sex marriage. So either they were right then and the entire campaign for same-sex marriage was based on false premises, or you are wrong now and civil partnership as an established alternative to marriage demands the same respect as marriage does.

            You can’t go around demanding that the law is changed to respect your life choices and beliefs, and then a year later demand that it be changed again to take away that respect from others. That’s not campaigning for for equality but for conformity.

          • Spanner1960

            Don’t twist the scenario in order to fit your argument.
            No LGBT person EVER demanded civil partnerships.
            That is what was offered, half a loaf or none at all, by the weasely Labour party who didn’t want to get on the wrong side of the Church. The Christians claimed we should not be able to redefine the name (‘one man, one woman’) and we proved them wrong. CP’s might demand the same respect, but they won’t get them from many people, particularly other countries, whereas a marriage is a marriage.

            I can ‘go around demanding that the law is changed to respect my life choices and beliefs’ and we did; for the betterment of all LGBT people in the UK.

    • Jean Ihenry

      True marriage equality would make no distinctions in the law between SS and opposite sex marriages. SS marriages in England are not equal to opposite sex marriages because pensions are exempted for SS marriages (a very major exemption). Having a religious exemption in the laws for SS marriages also makes them unequal; are there any other exemptions placed on SSM?

      • You’re right, the big one is pension inequality – hopefully the UK Government will change the law in that area when they’ve considered their response to their own report on the subject, published last week. The fact that religious (and in Scotland, belief) bodies can choose not to opt in to do same-sex marriage is another difference. Another is that in England and Wales non-consummation is not a ground for annulment of same-sex marriage – it is for mixed-sex marriage.

  • CHBrighton

    Does anyone know what the process is? When can we start to book the Registrar etc?

    • Robert W. Pierce

      I would assume you would go to local registrar on December 10, 2014, probably some short form to complete. We’ll hear more about this as the date approaches as to actual procedure. Obviously, the CP contract will have to be produced as evidence to proceed with a conversion.

      • CHBrighton

        I have made enquiries at our local Register Office and am told that we need to book a ‘slot’ and can have either just a conversion or a conversion followed by a ceremony (which will not be a marriage ceremony). However, I am really disappointed to also learn that we won’t be provided with a certificate of marriage, but with a certificate of conversion. This is really too bad and so unfair of those of us who CP’d when that was all that was available. Now we’re being made to wait before we can get married, and when we do we’ll be given a second class piece of paper work.

        • Rumbelow

          That is so unfair and shows a dreadful lack of empathy for people’s feelings.

          • Andrew

            See my post above. Find out your MPs address and email, today…….I have asked Stonewall to intervene, and they have raised it. I have spoken to the very helpful and sympathetic responsible civil servant at the dept of….equality, who told me that they had not previously seen it as an issue but will consider it, I have emailed the Home Sec, and No 10. No response yet. This is a serious issue the more noise the better. The Regs may be in course of being drafted as we “speak” so there is urgency to get it in play. I do not want to miss out on a religious marriage ceremony and I want a marriage certificate not a conversion certificate . I am not even sure the regulations as announced comply with the Act itself. I also by the way spoke to Pink News itself and I didn’t feel a spark of interest, but perhaps they will prove me wrong. So far, not a squeak.

          • Dewey

            Ive found it to be the complete opposite and have always had a reply and help from Pink News – stonewall on the other hand seem completely uninterested in Cpers and conversion in my opinion.

          • Andrew

            Well, different experience here. I was not at all happy with the supine position taken by Stonewall during the equal marriage campaign, but when I spoke to them this week, their rep dealing with liaison with the government on equal marriage was keen to listen, got the point and took it up same day. Can’t complain at that. Let’s see what happens. I am hopeful. It’s an administrative act so if it looks as if the approach falls on stoney ground might be one for judicial review. Human Rights lawyers please come to the front …….

          • CHBrighton

            Within England and Wales, a conversion certificate would be accepted but not acceptable. But for people who live or move abroad, a conversation certificate would cause all sorts of problems. No, a marriage certificate only will do.

        • Sorry to keep banging on about the Scottish legislation being different, but it may help campaigns to change these things in England and Wales! As we understand it, in Scotland, couples who change their CP to a marriage will be issued with a standard marriage certificate (which may have a note at the bottom saying that the marriage was previously a CP).

        • Dewey

          hope we don’t just get a conversion certificate as living outside of the uk trying to explain that it is equivalent to a marriage certificate wont be easy to do!

          • CHBrighton

            I’ve written to my MP asking him to look into this and, if it really is to be a conversion certificate rather than a full marriage certificate, then to ask questions and see how this can be changed. I said I didn’t want a second rate conversion certificate but that my partner and I want a full marriage certificate.

          • Dewey

            I wish we had an mp to write to too!

    • Mihangel apYrs

      I asked, and while they were short on detail, it appears to be an administrative exercise – bring CP document, maybe proof of identity, sign off a form.

  • Robert W. Pierce

    Very good news. Interesting is that New Zealand’s civil unions have halved for gay couples since equal marriage was introduced. Will be interesting to see how many in CPs will marry.

  • Excellent news. I was expecting a token fee and associated grumbling.

    • Rumbelow

      It is good news, we don’t need another tax on being gay.
      I’d also like to say, whether you and your partner choose to remain in your CP or convert to marriage, best wishes to you both for your future together Tom.

  • Jesus_Mohammed

    Wonderful news. Thank you, Mr. Javid.

  • Andrew

    There is a major flaw on the announced proposal. For couples in a CP who actually want a religious ceremony (where one is permitted, eg reform Jews, Quakers) there will be a lacuna. Such couples will be permanently denied this option. Heterosexual couples and same sex couples not yet in a CP may do this. Those in a CP who wish to convert may not and will never see their marriage solemnised in a religious context. This inequality should be addressed before the regulations are finalised. Support is needed. Please urgently email your MP if you agree

    • You’re right, for people in English and Welsh civil partnerships. The Scottish equal marriage act is different, and does allow you to convert your CP to a marriage by having a religious marriage ceremony.

      • Andrew

        The problem here is not the Act but the Regulations which will be laid before parliament under it. How in Scotland is the conversion permitted. In the Act itself or regulations?

        • The Scottish Act provides two ways to change a civil partnership to a marriage. One involves having the usual marriage ceremony done in the usual way, and, like any marriage, that can be performed in a civil, religious or humanist ceremony. The second way is an administrative route, involving filling in a form and taking it to the registrar.

          The English Act only provides the administrative route. However, you may be right that regulations under the English Act, setting out how the administrative route works, might be able to add in the option of a religious ceremony.

  • Cal

    Good gesture. Well done the Government!
    I do hope that Gay couples will not be interested in perpetuating inequality by opting to continue having CPs. Though a wonderful development at the time, they are now a relic of an unequal society and are pretty useless as a legal protection when traveling to some places in the world.

    • Rumbelow

      It’s true, as some people have said, that CP’s cannot be uninvented but they can be come obsolete and they can be superceded and replaced by something better like a lot of other obsolete inventions.

  • Michael

    I entered Civil ceremony in 2006. For religious reasons had an Italian song because God was not permitted to be referred to. I have personally (not partner) believed marriage was for male female relationships, but thrilled that marriage for same sex was approved.
    The fee waiver is not an issue for me. However, I am still unsure what benefit or exemptions may make me change my opinion – open to persuasion – will follow your comments with great interest. M

  • Dewey

    Excellent news – just hope its free to convert outside of the uk too! Just hope we get more info on the conversion progress soon! The registrar where we CP’d in 2006 has no info on the subject at all and keeps telling us to contact the government….

  • GulliverUK

    Damned right it should be waved. Couples shouldn’t have to pay to convert just because society took forever to recognise LGBT deserve equal legal recognition of their relationships, and everything that goes with it, including inheritance rights, this was unfair, or because governments were too weak to take on the religious groups to bring in marriage back in 2005, or, in fact, long long before, like the 1980s when it would have then given me options that I never had.

  • Rovex

    I thought I had slipped into a parallel universe when the Torys gave us equal marriage, now they are giving something away for free I know I have..

  • Steven Gregory

    Good to see G/L Brits are happy about the fair treatment regarding fees, it seems to have moved their minds off the ludicrous wait.

  • Lee Hobson

    I never expected there would be a fee and intended to wait until Pension benefits were equalised but seeing there will be a £45 charge after a year makes me and mine more likely to convert from CP to Marriage in year 1.

  • Joanne Gregory

    In answer to a previous comment I have booked today at my local registry office in Caerphilly,Wales to convert CP on 10th Dec they said I had the option to have a ceremony with vows etc of my choice but just opted to sign paperwork with registrar.

    • Dewey

      Lucky you!! south wales must be more clued up that west wales as the registrar in Pembs where we cpd knows nothing about the upgrade and wont return my calls or emails….

  • shejar

    Hi, lovely to see the reviews on CP to Marriage, I have a question, if you convert to marriage will you now without charge be able to take/share your partners name without being charged, as when you are entering into a mixed couples marriage they can take each others name without Charge. I find like most disappointed on the inequality to same sex couples wishing to have their CP changed to a MC to find we will not get a marriage certificate but a certificate of conversion? how can this be a marriage certificate and if we are going to have a MC then we should be allowed to name convert free of charge (if required) at the same time.

  • Robin Crser-angford

    God morning, there does not seem to be any mention as to how or what one needs to do in order to obtain a marriage certificate.

  • Spanner1960

    Why bother?
    Just scrap CP’s entirely and automatically upgrade everyone to marriage.
    It is pointless running two virtually identical parallel systems; it is unwieldy, expensive and unnecessary. CP’s were only brought in as a stopgap to appease the religious right. We have got the equality we wanted, so drop all the pretence and just offer the same options for everybody.

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