Creating a fairer and more equal society

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Equal marriage

The first marriages of same sex couples took place on Saturday 29 March 2014. This follows the passing of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013, which received Royal Assent on 17 July 2013.

Same sex couples who got married abroad under foreign law, who were consequently treated as civil partners in England & Wales, are now recognised as being married in England & Wales.

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.

Provisions of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act are brought into force

On 5 March 2014, a series of statutory instruments were approved by Parliament, subsequently bringing into force most of the provisions of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act.

These statutory instruments are available on the Office of Public Sector Information website.

Prior to receiving parliamentary approval, the relevant statutory instruments were debated:

Future provisions

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.

Reviews required by the Act

The Act requires reviews to be carried out on:

Further information

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