The first same sex weddings will be able to take place from Saturday 29 March 2014 (subject to the approval of Parliament). This follows the passing of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013, which received Royal Assent on 17 July 2013.
The Government announced the timetable for implementing equal marriage on 10 December 2013. Same sex couples who want to be among the first to marry will need to give formal notice of their intention to marry on Thursday 13 March 2014.
The Registrar General can allow a marriage to take place without the normal 15-day notice period where one of the couple is seriously ill and not expected to recover. Such marriages of same sex couples will be possible from Thursday 13 March 2014. The Registrar General can also reduce the normal 15-day waiting period in compelling circumstances, which may include where a person is being deployed overseas in the armed forces to a war zone before the usual 15 day period is completed.
Same sex couples who have married abroad under foreign law and are currently treated as civil partners will instead be recognised in England and Wales as being married from Thursday 13 March 2014.
Marriages of same sex couples in some British consulates and armed forces bases overseas will be possible, and arrangements for marriages of same sex couples in military chapels will be in place, from 3 June 2014.
We are continuing to work hard to ensure that couples wanting to convert their civil partnerships into marriages, and married people wanting to change their legal gender while remaining married, will be able to do so as soon as possible. We are aiming to have these arrangements in place before the end of 2014.
What the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act does:
The Act, which extends to England and Wales:
enables same sex couples to marry in civil ceremonies;
ensures those religious organisations that wish to do so can opt in to conduct marriage ceremonies for same sex couples;
protects religious organisations and their representatives from successful legal challenge, if they do not wish to marry same sex couples;
enables civil partners to convert their partnership into a marriage, if they wish;
enables individuals to change their legal gender without having to end their marriage.
On 23 January 2014, the Government laid a series of statutory instruments to be considered by Parliament. These will bring into force most of the provisions of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act (subject to the approval of Parliament). They:
make various changes to primary and secondary legislation that are needed as a result of the Act coming into force;
set out the procedures for registration of places of worship and authorised persons for marriages of same sex couples;
set out procedures for registration of shared religious premises for marriages of same sex couples;
determine jurisdiction in proceedings for divorce, annulment or judicial separation of a marriage of a same sex couple;
extend graduated retirement benefit to married same sex couples;
make various related changes to certain public service pension schemes;
set out procedures for registration of military chapels for marriages of same sex couples;
set out procedures for marriages (including of same sex couples) in armed forces bases overseas;
set out procedures for marriages (including marriages of same sex couples) in British consulates.
These statutory instruments will be available on the Office of Public Sector Information website.
Reviews required by the Act
The Act requires reviews to be carried out on:
whether ‘belief organisations’ (such as Humanists) should be able to conduct legally valid marriage ceremonies;
relevant differences in survivor benefits offered by occupational pension schemes.
- Read more information on giving notice of marriage
- Read more about differences between civil partnership and marriage for same sex couples.
- Read more detailed information about equal marriage, including a factsheet, mythbuster and legal analysis.
- Read documents relating to the passage of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill through Parliament.
- See our simple equal marriage infographics.
- Read our equal marriage consultation and response.