The conversion of civil partnerships to same-sex marriages took a significant step forward last week, marking a huge boost to same-sex couples. The news came following a speech by Helen Grant, the Equalities Minister, to a House of Commons committee, where it was announced that people in civil partnerships will be able to change the status of their relationship to a same-sex marriage.
The conversion option will be available to civil partnership couples in England and Wales by the end of this year. The news will undoubtedly be met with positive reaction by the gay community, who have suffered months of anxious uncertainty over the plans for same-sex marriages, where it was previously suggested that civil partnerships would be unable to be converted.
Grant said: "We recently celebrated a historic moment for our society - making marriage available to everyone, regardless of their sexuality or gender. Now all couples will be able to enjoy the opportunity to demonstrate their love for each other and the commitment they wish to make through marriage."
"Over time, the fact that same-sex couples can now marry will clearly affect the future of civil partnership. It is right, therefore, to start a review of the operation and future of the Civil Partnership Act 2004. We are doing so by launching this consultation to seek people's views on the main options for any future changes," she continued.
The House of Commons committee, which has been developing procedures and plans for same-sex marriages, has had to consider a range of issues such as same-sex marriage registrations in shared religious buildings, overseas marriages, and any changes to work pension programmes. The changes will be supported by the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act, and will come into force on Saturday 29 March.
While the news has been welcomed by many, there are still some people who believe that civil partnerships should not automatically be converted to same-sex marriages. An ongoing consultation period set up by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), which invited opinions from the public, has found that some people believe that civil partnerships should actually be available to heterosexual couples as well as gay couples. Some people argued that civil partnerships should be converted automatically to same-sex marriages when the new law comes into effect, with some even suggesting that civil partnerships should be made unavailable in future. A further viewpoint argued that same-sex civil partnerships should remain so, but any future ceremonies would be classed as marriages.
A DCMS spokesperson welcomed the impending changes, saying: "Civil partnerships were created for a very specific reason - to give same-sex couples access to legal rights at a time when society was not ready to give them access to marriage."
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