Nicky Morgan & Nick Boles: The green light for all couples to marry
Two months on from announcing her changed position on equal marriage, the Education Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalities Nicky Morgan writing jointly for PinkNews with the Skills and Equalities Minister Nick Boles explains why today will go down in LGBT rights history.
For many, there is nothing particularly momentous about today. It is Wednesday. There are 15 days left until Christmas. It is also the 146th anniversary of the traffic light.
However, today is an important day in our country’s proud history of supporting equality before the law. Spring of this year saw a seminal moment when the first marriages of same sex couples took place; today we complete another piece of the jigsaw by allowing same-sex couples already in civil partnerships to convert them into marriages if they wish.
We are absolutely delighted to be delivering on our promise to allow these conversions by Christmas and we are especially proud to be able to say, as of today, there is no reason in law why anyone cannot marry the person they love just because of their gender.
Marriage is a universal institution which should be available to all. It is the bedrock of our society and the most powerful expression of commitment that two people can make. While civil partnerships remain an important part of the journey towards legal equality, it is entirely understandable why so many same-sex couples want to be able to enter into the institution of marriage and express their love in the same way as their peers. In fact, this wasn’t just something that same sex couples wanted, but their straight peers as well, with solid majorities of the public supporting strengthening the institution of marriage by opening it to same-sex couples.
Following the largest ever government consultation, with strong views expressed on either side, we set to work to introduce a bill to Parliament which was rigorously debated. Through months of debate and public conversation we found the correct balance to make sure the institution of marriage is open to all whilst enshrining robust protections for religious freedoms. This means religious organisations can maintain or change their position on equal marriage over time, as they see fit.
Since the bill became law we have already seen thousands of same sex couples getting married this year. However, there are tens of thousands of couples already in civil partnerships who could not do the same – a loophole which today’s legislation closes. Couples who want to convert their civil partnership into a marriage can now choose a simple administrative process to convert their civil partnership or they can decide to celebrate with a ceremony attended by their friends and family at a location of their choice. This is what couples asked for and we are pleased to say we have delivered on it.
So, today’s date, 10 December 2014 is now a landmark for more than just the history of British traffic signalling. It is a special day for the thousands of couples in civil partnerships who are now able to be legally married, but it is also a significant day for the country. By opening marriage to all, we are making a statement about the fundamental importance of equality and acceptance in our society, acting as a beacon for the rest of the world. We would like to offer our congratulations to all those couples converting their civil partnerships into marriages today and in the future.
Nicky Morgan is the Secretary of State for Education and Minister for Women and Equalities. Nick Boles is the Minister of State for Skills and Equalities.
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