Marriage (Same Sex Couples)

Memorandum submitted by Dr Sharon Kathleen Dane (MB 18)

Re: British couple with co-existing UK Civil Partnership and Canadian Marriage

The following evidence relates to Section 10 (Extra-territorial matters) and Section 9 (7) (a) and 9 (7) (b) of the Bill (Conversion of civil partnership into marriage) and how these provisions might apply for British same-sex couples who have both a UK Civil Partnership and an overseas marriage (in this case, Canadian).

1. Background

1.1 My partner and I entered into a UK Civil Partnership in 2006, at the British Consulate in Brisbane, Australia. We are both British citizens. Our Civil Partnership is registered at Sutton Coldfield, the birthplace and home town of my partner. Although we preferred to be married, this was the only option available to us. Over the years, however, we became concerned that if either of us were to die while waiting for the right to marry, the surviving partner would never be able to say we were married. Therefore, we decided to get married in Canada (to each other) while on holidays in that country. We married in Toronto, Canada in 2008 but have no connections with Canada. As Canada did not (and still does not) recognise our UK Civil Partnership, we were free to legally marry in Canada without ending our civil partnership.

2. Conversion of UK Civil Partnership

2.1 According to Section 9 (7) (b) of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill 2012-2013 regarding the conversion of a civil partnership, the resulting marriage is to be treated as having subsisted since the date the civil partnership was formed. This, under normal circumstances, would mean the resulting marriage would be shown to have commenced 2 years prior to our Canadian marriage. However, there appears to be nothing in the current Bill that takes into account an overseas marriage conducted in the interim, involving the same civil partnered couple. Although Section 10 of the Bill (Extra-territorial matters) indicates that England and Wales would recognise our Canadian marriage as a marriage, this does not address the issue of having our marriage registered in Britain or the resulting impact on the status of our civil partnership. It appears that we cannot be simultaneously recognised as being in a civil partnership and a marriage. I assume, therefore, that our civil partnership would need to end, perhaps leaving us without any relationship registered in Britain.

2.2 The above outcome would be problematic for us for a number of reasons. Although we are currently living in Australia, we identify with our British citizenship. We both have current British passports and nearly all of my relatives, and many live in England. For us, it becomes important to be registered as married in a country in which we have legal rights and emotional ties. Although we are not sure if there are any UK or EU legal advantages for British couples with marriages registered in Britain versus abroad, that possibility is also of concern.

3. Clarification of provisions provided in the legislation

3.1 Given our British ties and identity, and the fact that our UK Civil Partnership took effect well before our Canadian marriage, we wish to have our relationship registered as a marriage in Britain. What we would like to have made clear in the legislation is how this would be achieved, should the legislation become law. For example, could our Canadian marriage also be registered in Britain or would we be required to end our Canadian marriage to make way for the conversion of our UK Civil Partnership? If the latter were to be the case, this may involve costly divorce proceedings, particularly as we do not reside in Canada. I assume this is uncharted waters but there are very likely to be other British couples in our situation.

February 2013

Prepared 15th February 2013