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:
on 27 February 2014, by a House of Lords legislation committee.
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:
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.