Q&A: When can I convert my civil partnership to marriage? And other questions

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

Last month the Government announced revised regulations for converting from civil partnerships to marriage, and yesterday those regulations were approved by the House of Lords.

The new regulations allow for a religious ceremony, or celebration in a venue other than a register office to take place, and give greater freedom to those converting to hold the celebration they want, big or small.

Here are some questions regularly received by PinkNews on the process of converting.

When can we convert our civil partnership to marriage? 

In England and Wales, the planned first date for conversion is 10 December. Couples in Scotland will be able to convert to marriage from 16 December, when the first same-sex couples will register to marry. In Northern Ireland there is currently no planned provision to allow couples to convert civil partnerships to marriage.

I want to have a big celebration or a religious ceremony, am I allowed? 

The revised regulations, announced on 16 October, set out that couples already in civil partnerships may opt for a simple conversion at a register office, or a two-stage process, which includes a ceremony at a venue of their choice.

The latter allows couples to choose a religious venue, hotel or other venue to host their conversion ceremony. A superintendent registrar must be present for the first part of the conversion, and a religious figure may take over to conduct the rest of the ceremony.

Couples must attend the register office for an identity check in advance of their conversion ceremony, but not necessarily on the same day.

Does that mean my conversion can be solemnised by a religious figure? 

No – the legal conversion is conducted by the registrar, however couples not already in civil partnerships are able to have a full wedding conducted by a figure at a religious organisation which allow same-sex marriages.

The reason the full conversion ceremony cannot be conducted by a religious figure at a religious venue is because the conversion of civil partnerships to marriage is not covered by the “quadruple lock” included in the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act, which protects the Church of England and other religious organisations from being forced to perform same-sex marriages if they do not opt-in to do so.

Will I have to pay if I want to convert?

The cost for couples wishing to convert to marriage using the simple process, if they entered a civil partnership before 29 March 2014, will be reduced to zero, a reduction of £45.

If couples opt for the two-stage process, the fee will be reduced by the same amount, £45, but will be chargeable “as the procedure will take longer and the superintendent registrar will have to travel to the venue.”

The reduced fee will remain in effect until 9 December 2015.

Do we get a marriage certificate?

Yes – couples converting will receive a marriage certificate. This will be backdated to the date you entered your civil partnership,

But I don’t want to convert to marriage – do I have to?

There is not automatic conversion from civil partnerships to marriage, and no current plans to phase them out. This means those already in civil partnerships can remain so, and are not obliged to convert to marriage.

We live overseas, do we have to come back to convert?

Some British consulates will be able to convert civil partnerships to marriage from 10 December. These conversions will  take place at the consular office in the country in which you live.

I entered a civil partnership abroad – will this automatically be recognised as a marriage on 10 December? 

No – The same rules apply to any union not formally recognised as a marriage, and entered into abroad. You will have the same choice of either the simple conversion at a register office, or the two-stage process.

I’m in a civil partnership, and I’m changing my legal gender – will I have to convert to a marriage?

A transgender person who is in a civil partnership prior to transition will have to convert to a marriage when applying for a Gender Recognition Certificate, as civil partnerships are only available to same-sex couples.

A transgender person who is married can apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate without it affecting their marital status – but will require their spouse’s consent for the GRC to progress. This is known as the ‘spousal veto’.

Have any other questions? Write in to [email protected].