Saturday, 29 March 2014 marked an important step for civil liberties in England and Wales as it was the first day on which same sex couples could get married. And by this we mean not just entering into a civil partnership, which is, by its very name, a more regulatory arrangement, but marriage.
Marriage is a union; an indication to both society and loved ones that you intend to spend the rest of your lives together. And now, in England and Wales, it is no longer just a union between a man and a woman – it is now a union between a man and a man, a woman and a woman, and a man and a woman. The freedom to marry has now been extended to all.
This change came about by way of an amendment of the law, which took effect on 13 March 2014. As for all marriages, there was a requirement to give notice to the local register office before being able to be legally married, and so the first such ceremonies took place just past midnight on Saturday.
There are few differences now between heterosexual marriage and same sex marriage. It leaves us all on an equal platform. It gives choice – marriage might not be for all, but there is the option now.
The law has also developed in respect of children: in the areas of surrogacy, sperm and egg donation, and shared parenting – all of which demonstrate the evolution of the modern family away from husband, wife and 2.4 children.
There are still some opponents to this change, both from traditionalists and also from within clusters of the gay and lesbian community. But the general feeling is that it is a step in the right direction, towards a more liberal and egalitarian society. We are not alone – there are nine other European nations, as well as countries further afield, who have also adapted their laws to our ever-developing societies.
As solicitors, we recognise the need for our laws to keep up with modern family life. There is a way to go but this is progress. Next, we would like there to be a change in the law for cohabiting couples – to provide protection in the gap where some believe common law marriage exists (it does not).
If you would like advice in respect of any of the areas discussed above, or to find out more, please contact any one of our four solicitors in our family departments at either our Woking or London offices of Mackrell Turner Garrett.