House of Lords approves civil partnership conversion regulations in time for Christmas

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The regulations for the conversion of civil partnerships to marriage have been passed following brief, but impassioned speeches in the House of Lords.

The British Government on 17 October announced revised regulations for converting civil partnerships to marriage, which include the option of a conversion ceremony in a church, synagogue, meeting house and other venues.

Couples are set to be able to convert to marriage from 10 December 2014.

The motion to approve the regulations was brought by Baroness Garden of Frognal in the Lords today.

On bringing forward the motion, Lady Garden, the new Lib Dem Whip said: “I am pleased to be able to bring these statutory instruments before the House, allowing conversion of civil partnerships into marriages and allowing couples who wish to do so to remain married if one or both of them change their legal gender. Subject to the passage of the necessary instruments through this House and the other place, we intend those provisions to come into force on 10 December this year.

“There has been a lot of discussion about these proposals since we first laid instruments in July. People felt that these were too restrictive and did not allow sufficient flexibility for the celebration of their marriage for couples who had chosen to enter civil partnerships at a time when marriage was not available. As a result, we agreed to see what we could do to provide greater choice for couples. We have done that, and these instruments offer more flexibility, allowing conversions to be completed in the same range of venues where same-sex couples can currently marry.”

Lord Paddick added, saying: “My Lords, I declare an interest, having married a Norwegian man in 2009 in Norway. My marriage is now recognised as a marriage in the UK, whereas previously it was recognised only as a civil partnership.

“I say that we are nearing the end of the legislative road as far as equal marriage is concerned but it is to be regretted that equal marriage is still not possible in Northern Ireland.”

Labour Peer Lord Collins of Highbury added: “My Lords, I, too, acknowledge the journey we have travelled. It has been a long and sometimes very difficult one but nothing gives me greater pleasure than to acknowledge that we have a cross-party consensus on equality under the law. That is something that we can be proud of in this country and is not something to be ashamed of.”

Baroness Thornton, who was the Labour peer responsible for the safe passage of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act last year, said: “We all know that it is rare, as parliamentarians, to see through a piece of legislation which has the direct effect of making so many people so happy.

“We welcome these orders and I congratulate the Government on bringing them forward in time for all the happy events to take place before Christmas.”

These new regulations only apply to the conversion of civil partnerships to marriage in England and Wales.