Scotland throws a lifeline to Northern Irish same-sex couples

The Scottish government has rolled out changes to civil partnership conversions – which finally allows civil partners from Northern Ireland to convert to a marriage.

Following the introduction of same-sex marriage last year, Scotland, England and Wales implemented conversions procedures to allow couples in existing civil partnerships to change to a marriage if they wish to.

Until now, only Scottish civil partnerships could be converted in Scotland, and only English and Welsh civil partnerships in England and Wales.

Due to the way the legislation was written, couples with Northern Irish civil partnerships were blocked from converting to a marriage anywhere in the UK – as same-sex marriage continues to be banned in Northern Ireland.


However, the Scottish government has today rolled out changes – which mean you can now convert to a marriage in Scotland if you got a civil partnership elsewhere in the UK or world – even from Northern Ireland.

Scotland’s new system potentially allow couples in Northern Irish civil partnerships to convert to a marriage in Scotland – though Northern Ireland continues to treat all same-sex unions as civil partnerships.

One Inverness couple who got a civil partnership in Northern Ireland had spoken out earlier this year, after they learned they were banned from converting their marriage.

John Vernon, who had planned to marry his partner Sean Vernon, said: “To get married we would effectively have to get divorced first, that is ridiculous.

“We want to have the same rights as everyone else and we believe we should, that is the fundamental reason for the whole thing.”

Local Government Minister Marco Biagi said of the changes: “We are sending a powerful message out about the kind of country we are – one which is incredibly proud that same sex couples can show their love and commitment to each other by getting married.

“By passing historic legislation last year, and now extending it to include those who had a civil partnership outwith Scotland , we are demonstrating to the world how importantly Scotland views equality.”

Tim Hopkins, Director of the Equality Network, said: “We very much welcome this change, which is a small but important piece of unfinished business from the equal marriage legislation last year.
Scotland throws a lifeline to Northern Irish same-sex couples
“Without this, same-sex couples living in Scotland who have registered a civil partnership outwith Scotland would be unable to marry in Scotland unless they live apart for a year first to dissolve their civil partnership.

“That’s obviously not an option for most couples, and now they will be able to marry in the usual way, changing their civil partnership directly to a marriage.

“The number of couples in this situation is relatively small, but the value of the change to them is huge.”