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Government to consult on civil partnerships

31 January 2014

AS THE date of the first UK gay weddings comes closer, the Government has launched a consultation on civil partnerships.

The first same-sex couples who want to get married will be able to do so on 29 March. The legislation will also allow those currently in civil partnerships to convert them into marriages. Civil partnerships will remain an option for gay couples, but not for heterosexuals.

The Government's consultation is asking individuals and organisations what they think about the future of civil partnerships, now that gay and lesbian couples can get married.

It notes that some are calling for civil partnerships to be abolished entirely, whereas others believe that they shouldbe opened up to straightcouples.

Meanwhile, a gay couple are threatening the Government with legal action after discovering they will only be able to get married from 29 March if they first dissolve their civil partnership.

The Government has not yet decided how civil partners can convert their partnerships into marriages, and a spokesman for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport said that the procedure would be finalised only later this year.

But Michael and Paul Atwal-Brice, who entered a civil partnership in 2008, are considering launching a judicial review, because they argue it is unfair to force them to get the equivalent of a divorce before they can marry. Mr Atwal-Brice told The Guardian: "There are legal and practical difficulties if we were forced to divorce."

With some clergy likely to enter same-sex marriages, the House of Bishops will meet next month to discuss what approach to take when gay marriage becomes legal in March.

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