By Peter Saunders, CMF
It has long been suspected that same sex marriage is a legal can of worms.
But David Cameron's new proposed same sex marriage law may change the nature of marriage beyond even his wildest imaginings.
Currently marriage and same sex civil partnerships are dealt with under two different types of legislation.
The formalities of marriage are predominantly governed by the Marriage Act 1949, the Marriage Act 1983 and the Marriage (Registrar General's Licence) Act 1970.
By contrast the Civil Partnership Act 2004 (CPA 2004) defines civil partnership as a formal legal relationship between two people of the same sex but gives same-sex couples virtually all of the rights and privileges of married couples.
The President of the Family Division has even described civil partnerships as conferring ‘the benefits of marriage in all but name’.
There are however some differences in English law, between a marriage and a civil partnership, but these differences focus not on the rights they confer, but on the genders of the partners, the procedure and place where the partnership is formed, and the roles of consummation and adultery in making and breaking the relationship.
These differences are there because they are different types of relationship. It is not ‘one size fits all’.
Currently same-sex couples cannot get married and opposite-sex couples cannot form civil partnerships.
One of the most intriguing mysteries about David Cameron’s plans to redefine marriage to include same sex couples was always therefore going to be how he would deal with ‘consummation’ and ‘adultery’.
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