Gay marriage vs. civil partnerships

LGBTQ+ Is there a difference? What do they mean for us? Is one 'better' than the other? There are a fair few questions about the differences between gay marriage and civil partnerships. So we wrote this post to put some of the most sought-out answers in one place.

Q. But civil partnerships and same-sex marriage are basically the same, right?


Basically, but not completely. The process and the content of the ceremonies is different for starters. In a marriage, there is a set order of words that must be spoken and are legally binding. A civil partnership (CP), on the other hand, is formed only by the signing of a civil partnership document, but you can add whatever words, readings and music you’d like.

Both unions result in a certificate, but only the CP certificate gives the names of both parents – something that agrees with feminists in particular. For both types of union, if one of you wishes to take the other’s name, you can do this at either kind of ceremony (but for any other name changes you’ll need to go via deed poll). Not sure what to do? See our same-sex married names and terms post.

After that, the legalities are the main difference. If you and your partner are in a CP, you won’t be entitled as fully to any survivor scheme offered by partner’s pension benefits than if the two of you were married.

Q. I’m in a civil partnership. Can we convert it into a marriage?


A. Yes you can! You can do this via your local register office either in a straightforward administrative procedure or in any kind of approved venue in a ceremony as much or as little like a wedding as you’d like.

The cost for the first option is £45.00 if you formed your CP before 29 March 2014, or free if you formed it before this date. For an approved venue, it’s £27 when you give notice and then the usual ceremony fee (check your council’s website). You don’t need witnesses to convert a CP into a marriage.

Q. Can I have my lesbian or gay wedding in a church?

A. Yes, if the governing body relating to the church has agreed that they will solemnise any lesbian or gay marriage, if the officiator is happy to conduct the marriage and if the building itself is registered to conduct same-sex marriages.

You may need to fulfil certain actions such as attending worship for a certain period of time directly before the wedding. This is standard for any couple hoping to wed in a religious building.

Unfortunately, Church of England, Catholic and Methodist bodies don’t currently allow same-sex weddings in their buildings. However, things are looking good if you’re hoping for a Quaker, liberal Jewish or Unitarian minister to officiate, as these groups are much more supportive of same-sex marriage.

Ultimately, it comes down to the individual minister, though. Sadly, unless the law ever changes, CPs can only ever take place in non-religious venues.

Q. Can opposite-sex couples get a civil partnership?

A. Alas, no. While it seems only fair and while there is a degree of pressure to make CPs available for opposite-sex couples who don't love the idea of marriage but want to formalise their relationship, the likelihood of this happening seems slim at present.

What happens in the future with CPs may, in part, depend on how popular they prove now that marriage is available to everyone. Many believe that the union will eventually die out entirely. Only time will tell!

Q.What about couples where one or both are transgender?

A. Getting your true gender recognised by the government is a step in many trans people's journey. In the UK, this is done via a Gender Recognition Certificate, gained via a pretty laborious process you can read more about on the government's website.

Whether you're a same-sex couple or opposite-sex couple depends on how the government recognises your genders – which is crucial when it comes to marriages and CPs, as ultimately it's important for a number of reasons that your union is recognised by the government.

As civil partnerships aren't open to opposite-sex couples, a marriage may be the best bet for trans brides and grooms as marriage is open to both types of couple and would withstand a transition, whether it took you from same-sex to opposite-sex, or vice versa (unless you live in Northern Ireland – we're rooting for this to change ASAP, of course).

If, however, you really want a CP and plan to change gender recognition resulting in you becoming a same-sex couple, you'll need to get your gender recognition certificate sorted before you start the ball rolling with registrars etc.

Got any more questions for us? Go ahead, make our big gay day!


Tags: civil partnership, gay marriage, same-sex, law, advice, lesbian marriage

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