The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 received Royal Assent on 17 July 2013 and is expected to come into force in 2014.
The legislation enjoyed a complex passage through the legislature, largely due to the need to accommodate varying religious views. Technical complexities still remain – for example regarding the extension of ‘spouse’s rights’ over pensions and death-in-service benefits, as the life expectancies of the sexes are significantly different.
In essence, the Act will make same-sex marriage the legal equivalent of heterosexual marriage.
Among other important legal issues dealt with by the Act are:
- Same-sex marriages solemnised in foreign jurisdictions before the passage of the Act will be recognised as marriages in England and Wales;
- It does not change the effect of any ‘private instrument’ made before it comes into force. So, for example, the definition of ‘spouse’ in an existing Trust providing for children and spouses would not include same-sex spouses; and
- It does not extend the common-law presumption that a child born to a married woman is also the child of her spouse to the circumstance in which the spouse is also female.
A consultation is to be held on civil partnerships and it is thought probable that these will be able to be converted into marriages.