From today – December 10 – couples in civil partnerships across England and Wales will be able to convert their unions into full marriages.
Civil partners who wish to convert can choose between a simple procedure at a registry office or a more elaborate ceremony conducted by a registrar and attended by family and friends.
In either case the parties make a short declaration stating that they know of “no legal reason why we may not convert our civil partnership into a marriage.”
At the conclusion of the process the couple will receive backdated marriage certificates. The newly formed marriage will be judged to have legally commenced on the date of the couple’s original civil partnership.
The conversion of civil partnerships is one of the final sections of the Marriage (Same Sex) Couples Act to come into force – a delay attracted some criticism from gay rights campaigners.
The Marriage (Same Sex) Couples Act received royal assent in July last year and the first ceremonies were conducted on March 29.
Civil partnership was introduced in England and Wales on 21 December 2005, one year, one month and three days after the Civil Partnership Bill had received royal assent. Figures from the Office for National Statistics suggest that by December 2012, around 60,000 civil partnerships had been registered in England and Wales.
Following a consultation, the government announced in June that civil partnerships would not made be available to straight couples.