Posted on 15.2.13 by Nicola Fraser
The Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Bill has this month been approved by Parliament. It is debatable, however, as to how meaningful this will be to many same-sex couples in committed relationships.
Many same-sex couples seeking legal recognition of their relationship have already entered into Civil Partnerships. On speaking with some of these couples about the introduction of this right to marry, the only personal difference that they envisage is that those with religious convictions may now have their relationship recognised and sanctified by a Church. For those couples who do not hold religious views, they see little purpose in changing the label that the law puts upon their relationship.
For those whose faith is an important element in this arena, it is important to note that so far as Churches are concerned, the Bill passed by Parliament, specifies that the Church of England and the Church of Wales will be banned in law from offering same-sex marriages and other religious organisations cannot be forced to undertake them and would instead have to opt-in. It would seem, therefore, that for many the advent of same-sex marriage will have little meaningful benefit and it remains to be seen which Churches (not specifically banned) will choose to opt-in – which itself may be both causative and indicative of a more secular society.
As for the legal rights that same-sex marriage will confer as opposed to Civil Partnership, there will be no difference, as it is already the case that Civil Partners have exactly the same rights and protections as married heterosexuals under the law, with reference to property, pension and maintenance claims should the relationship break down. Likewise a Civil Partner is already treated as a spouse for inheritance purposes.