The Solicitor - The FindLaw UK Life, Family and Workplace Law Blog

Family Law: Government to hold consultation on legalising gay marriage

For years gay couples have campaigned for the right to have legally recognised marriages but currently same-sex couples are only permitted to enter civil partnerships, which despite offering the same legal treatment for most matters, does not allow the union to be referred to as a marriage.

Campaigners argue that denying same-sex couples the same privileges and rights as other couples is "homophobic discrimination".

But early next year, the Government will hold a consultation on changing the laws for same-sex couples.

Equality Minister Lynne Featherstone says the Liberal Democrats are committed to confronting "prejudice and discrimination in all its forms", and in light of this the public consultation will take place in March 2012.

She said: "Britain must not be complacent. We are a world leader for gay rights but there is still more we must do.

"To deny one group of people the same opportunities available to another is not simply discriminatory. It is simply not fair."

It is hoped that the change to the legislation will take place before the next general election in May 2015.

However, the proposed changes will not allow for same-sex couples to be married in a religious setting and will also not allow opposite-sex couples to form civil partnerships.

Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell believes that there should not be a ban on holding same-sex marriages in religious buildings.

He said: "It is an insult to people of faith for the equality minister to rule out any repeal of the ban on religious organisations conducting same-sex marriages."

Many religious organisations have expressly asked to be permitted to hold same-sex ceremonies and in response to this, civil partnerships will be permitted to take place in religious buildings from next year.

Related links:
Read more on the story (BBC)
The differences between a marriage and a civil partnership (FindLaw)
Find local family solicitors throughout the UK (FindLaw)