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What’s the difference between a marriage and a civil partnership? An LGBT lawyer answers the big questions

    Same-sex couples in most of the UK have two options if they want to make a legal commitment to one another – civil partnership or marriage. Civil partnerships were introduced in 2004 when same-sex marriage was limited to opposite sex couples. Over a decade later, gay couples in the UK (excluding Northern Ireland) can marry as well as enter into a civil partnership.

    What’s the difference? How is a marriage different to a civil partnership? Do married couples have more rights? What about divorce? We sought out a top lawyer to help answer these questions and more.

    Andrew Smith, Associate Solicitor for Blacks Solicitors’ Family Law team, specialises in LGBT legal work. Here, he answers your questions on both civil partnerships and same-sex marriages, including legal differences, pre-nuptial agreements and pension entitlements…


    What are the legal differences between a civil partnership and a marriage?

    “There are very few ‘legal’ differences between a civil partnership and a same sex marriage. Civil partners cannot refer to themselves as ‘married’ and it is a different ceremony. On a certificate of civil partnership both parents are named rather than just the father on a marriage certificate; but there is legally little difference between the two.”

    But there must be some differences?

    “The main differences are similar to those between a religious marriage and a civil ceremony undertaken by heterosexual couples; in regard to the formation, the ceremony, the administrative process and the certificates.

    “Somewhat controversially, one of the main differences is that civil partners are unable to cite the specific act of Adultery as the main reason for why the civil partnership has broken down. This is because the definition of adultery is sexual intercourse with someone of the opposite sex outside marriage. Instead, civil partners have to use ‘unfaithfulness’ as one of a number of examples of Unreasonable Behaviour.”

    How easy is it to convert a civil partnership to a marriage?

    “Quite easy. Civil partners intending to marry will need to sign a ‘conversion into marriage’ declaration and then convert the civil partnership into a marriage at a registry office; a local registration office; or a religious or approved office where same sex marriages are allowed.


    Are those in a same sex marriage or civil partnership entitled to a spouse’s pension?

    “Up until very recently this had been a grey area for those who retired prior to when the act was introduced.

    “The Walker v Innospec [2017] case which recently made the headlines challenged this and saw the Supreme Court unanimously allow Mr Walker’s appeal for his employer to pay his pension to his spouse in the event of his death, despite his service predating December 2005.

    “This fantastic result will pave the way for all same sex couples in a similar situation, who are either married or in a civil partnership, to be able to leave their pension to their spouse.”

    Can those in a civil partnership get divorced?

    “A married couple will have a ‘divorce’ whilst civil partners will have a ‘dissolution’ if they choose to separate. Therefore the answer is technically yes as although the terminology is different, it does mean the same thing in principle.”

    What financial relief is someone in a same-sex marriage or civil partnership entitled to following a breakup?

    “The financial relief available to separating couples is the same due to Schedule 5 of the Civil Partnership Act 2004. Same sex married couples will be subject to the same legislation as heterosexual married couples, rather than through the Civil Partnership Act. The rulings are a little different but the criteria applying the law and the discretion of the judiciary is exactly the same.”


    Does a pre-nuptial agreement work the same for both a same-sex marriage and a civil partnership?

    “Yes. Pre-nuptial agreements are still not automatically binding in marriages (either heterosexual or same sex) or civil partnerships. The law regarding pre-nuptial agreements is laid down by case law and so each pre-nuptial agreement will be determined on a case-by-case basis depending on the pertinent facts.

    “Pre-nuptial agreements are becoming more and more common and recent case law suggests that the judiciary will be more inclined to allow them to bind the parties. As the legislation regarding heterosexual marriages covers both civil partnerships and same sex marriages, it follows therefore that the courts will apply the same tests when making their decision.”

    How are financial assets treated differently in a same-sex marriage to a civil partnership?

    “Overall, financial assets are treated the same way in a same-sex marriage as they are in a civil partnership. Section 25 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 provides the criteria the judges will use when deciding on financial assets in both a same sex marriage and civil partnership.

    “This highlights there is very little difference in the law concerning civil partnerships and same sex marriages.”


    What’s the future looking like for civil partnerships?

    “Since the introduction of marriage for same sex couples in 2014, the Office for National Statistics1 (ONS) has revealed that the numbers of civil partnerships have been falling. In 2013 just before the introduction of marriage, there were 6,276 civil partnerships, yet in 2015 there were just 1,014.

    “In contrast, between March 2014 and June 2015, there were 7,366 marriages formed between same sex couples in England and Wales and between December 2014 and June 2016 there were 7,732 civil partnerships converted into marriages. It’s looking like the majority of same sex couples are preferring to enter a marriage instead of a civil partnership and this trend is likely to continue.”

    Does this mean civil partnerships will eventually be abolished?

    “In 2014 the coalition government produced a consultation paper to review civil partnerships and within this questions were asked whether they should be abolished completely or opened up to opposite sex couples. As the majority of these responses were negative the government at the time decided to do nothing.

    “The position at the moment is ‘as you were’ and is unlikely to change until at least the judgement in the appeal case for the recent challenge on civil partnerships for opposite sex couples, or there has been time to review the impact of same sex marriage.”

    If you have a LGBT legal query you would like to discuss with Andrew, please email him on or visit the website for more information:

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    UK military chiefs praise transgender troops in wake of Trump ban

      UK military chiefs have spoken out in support of transgender servicemen in the wake of Donald Trump’s announcement of a transgender military ban in the US.

      The US president and Commander-in-Chief announced on Twitter on Wednesday (July 27) that his administration will prevent transgender Americans from serving in the US military “in any capacity”.

      As well as preventing the armed forces from accepting transgender recruits, Trump’s announcement leaves the fate of serving transgender servicemen and women – estimated to number in the thousands – in doubt.

      Following the announcement, some of the highest-ranking commanders in the UK armed forces publicly expressed their support for transgender military personnel.

      Commander of UK Maritime Forces Rear Admiral Alex Burton wrote on Twitter: “I am so glad we are not going this way.”

      His support for transgender troops was echoed by Second Sea Lord Vice Admiral Jonathan Woodcock, who praised the “diversity” of the British Royal Navy.

      “So proud of our Transgender personnel,” he wrote on Twitter.

      He added: “I will always support their desire to serve their country.”

      Former US President Barack Obama announced that transgender US servicemen would be allowed to serve openly in the military last year.

      US Defence Secretary James Maitlis had been expected to lift the ban on recruiting transgender people this month, but asked for a six-month postponement on the issue in June.

      In Wednesday’s Twitter announcement, Trump attempted to justify his discriminatory policy by arguing that the “tremendous medical costs” of allowing transgender people to serve would “burden” the US military.

      Currently, transgender troops are eligible to have medical costs relating to their transition paid for, but since Trump’s announcement it has emerged that the US military spends roughly five times the amount of transition-related medical costs on erectile dysfunction medicine for troops alone.


      Meanwhile, the UK’s Ministry of Defence has said that President Trump’s latest policy announcement is “an American issue”.

      A spokesperson told BBC: “We are clear that all LGBT members of our armed forces play a vital role in keeping our nation safe. We will continue to welcome people from a diverse range of backgrounds, including transgender personnel.”

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      Theresa May admits Tories were ‘wrong’ on LGBT rights

        Prime Minister Theresa May has she was “wrong” to have voted against LGBT+ rights in the past, in an interview to mark the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in England and Wales.

        The 1967 Sexual Offences Act decriminalised private homosexual acts between men over the age of 21 in England and Wales. Decriminalisation did not reach Scotland and Northern Ireland until 1980 and 1982 respectively.

        The Prime Minister, who previously voted against lowering the age of consent for gay men and opposed allowing gay couples to adopt, told Pink News: “I am proud of the role my party has played in recent years in advocating a Britain which seeks to end discrimination on the grounds of sexuality or gender identity, but I acknowledge where we have been wrong on these issues in the past.”

        May’s record on LGBT+ rights has improved in recent years. In 2004 she voted for the introduction of civil partnerships and supported marriage equality legislation. However, she has faced criticism for her deal with the anti-gay DUP after her party failed to win a majority during the election in June.


        In 1977 the DUP launched the ‘Save Ulster from Sodomy’ campaign, which sought to prevent the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Northern Ireland, and in recent years the party has repeatedly blocked the introduction of same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland, which remains the only region in the UK where gay people are denied the right to marry.

        Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn also spoke to the publication, saying that the anniversary was a time to “recognise the great strides towards equality that have been made”.

        Corbyn hailed the achievements of LGBT+ campaigners in their fight for equality: “I am proud of the role the Labour Party played in these advances… but this progress is not down to MPs in Parliament… these achievements belong first and foremost to the LGBT community who have persevered against prejudice for many years.”

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        Donald Trump says trans people can’t serve in the US military ‘in any capacity’

          US President Donald Trump has confirmed that transgender Americans will not be allowed to serve openly in the US military.

          Taking to Twitter today (July 26), Trump wrote: “After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military.

          “Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender (sp) in the military would entail. Thank you.”

          An existing ban against trans Americans serving in the military was lifted in 2016 during the Obama administration.

          Announcing the lifting of the ban, then-Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said: “Our mission is to defend this country, and we don’t want barriers unrelated to a person’s qualification to serve preventing us from recruiting or retaining the soldier, sailor, airman or Marine who can best accomplish the mission. We have to have access to 100% of America’s population for our all-volunteer force to be able to recruit from among them the most highly qualified — and to retain them.”

          The move is an unsurprising one when considering Trump’s previous record on LGBT+ rights. Earlier this year he gutted a federal order protecting LGBT+ workers. He also failed to acknowledge LGBT+ Pride Month in June, an event that his predecessor Barack Obama marked during every year of his presidency.

          Trump also revoked landmark guidance on bathroom use for transgender students earlier this year.

          Responding to Trump’s announcement, GLAAD released the following statement: “President Trump today issued a direct attack on transgender Americans, and his administration will stop at nothing to implement its anti-LGBTQ ideology within our government – even if it means denying some of our bravest Americans the right to serve and protect our nation,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, President and CEO of GLAAD. “Today further exposed President Trump’s overall goal to erase LGBTQ Americans from this nation. Trump has never been a friend to LGBTQ Americans, and this action couldn’t make that any more clear.”

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          Gay man tears up discussing the impact Britain’s anti-gay laws have had on his life – WATCH

            BBC Two have released footage of the heartbreaking moment a gay man tears up as he discusses the impact Britain’s anti-gay laws have continued to have on his life, 50 years after the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in England and Wales.

            In a preview clip from BBC Two docu-drama Against the Law, due to air at 9pm this Wednesday (July 26), several men old enough to remember gay life pre-1967 recall the reality of living in a society where they could have been jailed simply for expressing the basic human instinct to love.

            Starring Daniel Mays and Mark Edel-Hunt, Against the Law dramatises the 1954 trial of Conservative English politician Lord Montagu for gay sex offences and features real-life testimony from gay men who lived through the era.

            “Being gay was a very tricky business. It was frowned upon by society, it was punishable by imprisonment,” explains 89-year-old Roger Locklear in newly-released footage from the powerful new programme.

            “If heterosexuals had been subject to the force of law, if their relationships had been frowned upon, it’s most unlikely they would have settled into long term marriages. They had public opinion and the law behind them.

            “In the case of homosexuals, they had public opinion and the law distinctly against them. So the whole climate was opposed to the building of relationships.

            “In fact I think many gay people half believed – because they were told so often – that if you were gay you couldn’t have a relationship.”

            The exact human cost of that sentiment is drilled in as another man explains that he never wished to grow old alone.

            “[Being gay] was a no-no, so I had to be on my own. So I’ve been used to it since childhood, being a loner,” he says tearfully.

            “Never enjoyed it I can tell you. It was awful. But that’s that way it is.”

            Against the Law airs this Wednesday (July 26) at 9pm on BBC Two.

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            Sir Elton John tells Prince Harry how Princess Diana helped tackle gay Aids stigma

              Prince Harry proved he’d inherited his late mother’s activist streak when he broadcast himself taking an HIV test live on Facebook last year, and now the fifth in line to the British throne has discussed Princess Diana’s Aids work with her former friend Sir Elton John.

              The pair sit down to discuss the legacy of Diana’s Aids campaigning in a special ITV documentary set to air on Monday night (July 24) mark 20 years since her death in a Paris car crash in August 1997.

              Scenes from Diana, Our Mother: Her Life and Legacy show Sir Elton John telling Prince Harry how Diana’s public displays of support for those living with Aids during the 1980s and ’90s helped tackle the stigma associated with the disease.

              In April 1987, she opened the UK’s first purpose-built HIV/Aids unit that exclusively cared for patients infected with the virus, at London Middlesex Hospital, and made headlines around the world when she shook the hand of a man living with the virus without wearing gloves.


              “It was considered to be a gay disease,” John says of the illness. “For someone who was within the Royal Family and who was a woman, and who was straight, to have someone care from the other side, was an incredible gift.”

              As Harry looks back over pictures of his mother meeting Aids patients during he height of the crisis, he comments: “You look back to these days, when actually the reality was doom and gloom… yet everybody in that photo is smiling.”

              John adds of the late Princess: “She had that incredible ability — which [Harry] kind of inherited — to make people feel at ease and make them feel that everything’s gonna be all right.

              “I haven’t experienced many people in my life who have that ability, but she could walk into a room of people and make them feel as if everything was great.”

              Diana, Our Mother: Her Life and Legacy airs tonight (July 24) at 9pm on ITV and will air in the US on HBO on Monday August 31.

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              Rugby union’s first openly gay referee Nigel Owens reveals ongoing bulimia battle

                Rugby union’s first openly gay referee Nigel Owens has revealed he is battling against an ongoing struggle with bulimia nervosa.

                The Welsh international rugby union referee, 46, spoke about his own experiences of the condition as research by the BBC’s Panorama programme reveals that there has been an increase in the number of men and boys suffering from eating disorders in the UK.

                Nigel, who came out publicly as gay in 2007, said that struggles with his weight and sexuality as a teenager led to the onset of bulimia, which is characterised by a period of overeating followed by fasting or self-induced vomiting or purging.

                Writing for the BBC ahead of the broadcast of new documentary Nigel Owens: Bulimia and Me on BBC Wales on Monday (24 July), he reveals: “I’ve spoken about dealing with bulimia in the past but have never before revealed that to this day I continue to struggle with an eating disorder.

                “Since the age of 18, I have had bulimia nervosa.”

                Owens, who made history when he became the first openly gay referee to helm a Rugby World Cup final two years ago, continues: “It was a secret I was still battling to control as I stepped on to the pitch to referee the Rugby World Cup in 2015. And I’m not alone.”


                The Welshman goes on to say that despite having a “happy childhood with loving, supportive parents”, the realisation that he was gay left him battling low self-esteem and depression as he approached the en of his adolescence.

                “In the world I grew up in, you get a girlfriend, you get married, you have children, become grandparents… and that’s the way the world turns,” he says.

                “But I was finding myself attracted to men and couldn’t figure out what on earth was going on.”

                Nigel, who revealed earlier his year that he once attempted to take his own life and asked to be chemically castrated by a doctor as he struggled to come to terms with his sexuality during his 20s, added that he also began to use steroids after bulimia caused him to lose five stone in four months.

                “Mental health issues, depression over my sexuality, bulimia and steroids – my life was an unrelenting nightmare,” he says. “I was broken.”

                He adds that while he’s undergone periods of remission and relapse, bulimia is something he continues to struggle with the disorder day-to-day.

                “It might have been twice a week then nothing for months and months”, Nigel explains. “I know it does more harm than good so why do I still do it from time to time? I don’t know.”

                As Panorama reveals that the NHS referred 871 men were referred to eating disorder services in 2016 – an increase from 2014 of 43% – Nigel is encouraging others who may be struggling to be open about the issue and seek professional help and advice.

                “I would urge anyone suffering to do something – seek professional advice, tell people about it, don’t hide it, don’t lie about it, that’s a great first step”, he says.



                “People who’ve never had an eating disorder can try to imagine what it’s like but they will never know.”

                He adds: “I’m speaking openly about it because I know that men and boys can view it as a sign of weakness by admitting there’s a problem that you can’t sort out yourself.

                “But it’s not a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of great strength to do that.”

                BBC Panorama: Men, Boys & Eating Disorders, airs at 8.30pm on Monday 24 July. BBC Wales Week In Week Out Nigel Owens: Bulimia and Me airs on BBC One Wales at the same time.

                Struggling with an eating disorder? Contact Beat: the UK’s eating disorder charity at, or ring the Helpline on 0808 801 0677 or Youthline on 0808 801 0711 between 3pm and 10pm.

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                Gender transition process to be ‘streamlined’ under new government proposal

                  The government has announced plans for a consultation on the legal system that underpins gender transition in the UK.

                  As it currently stands under the 2004 Gender Recognition Act, a person who wishes to make a change to the gender they were assigned at birth needs a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria and must provide evidence that they have been in transition for at least two years before they can apply to legally change their gender.

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                  Gay pornography found at Pompeii could aid in understanding the Bible

                    Pornographic images found at Pompeii could help us understand religious attitudes to sexuality, a prominent Christian has argued.

                    Thousands were killed when molten rock, volcanic ash and deadly gases engulfed the Roman town in a fiery eruption that lasted two days when Mount Vesuvius erupted back in 79 A.D.

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                    22/07/17 | Posted in News

                    LGBT activists protest French president Emmanuel Macron over asylum plan

                      A group of French LGBT+ activists have launched a protest against President Macron.

                      Earlier this week, the 20 queer activists hung a banner over a bridge near the Palais du Louvre, protesting the government’s recently unveiled asylum plan. The banner reads “Macron starves the migrants. Queers against borders.”

                      Earlier this month, the country’s Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced plans for a law that would speed up deportations for those who enter the country illegally, along with the speeding up the asylum process and an increase in the amount of housing available to new immigrants.

                      “I introduce (these measures) in all humbleness as I am perfectly aware that the issues at stake today are difficult,” Philippe said. “It they were easy to solve, I have no doubt they would have been solved.”

                      One of the activists who took part in the protest, journalist Cy Lecerf Maulpoix, explained the group’s actions in a piece for The Huffington Post. He claims that the proposed plan would lead to “more police, more evictions, more oppressions and more vulnerability.”

                      Maulpoix writes that Macron’s international image is not a true representation of the president’s views. He writes that Macron “cultivates his Justin Trudeau-style with much dedication.

                      “Yet geographical distance blurs the complexity of reality. And behind the very rainbow, human-rights-friendly closet that he has decided to hide in when confronted by the international community, another truth has to come out.”

                      He also addressed the treatment of migrants in Calais, and compared the persecution of LGBT+ asylum seekers to the situation unfolding in Chechnya. “For years now, many migrants have been persecuted in France in Calais and the rest of the country. Today, they are chased by the police in the forest to be prevented from sleeping. They are also being denied most of their fundamental rights.

                      “Water is being poisoned regularly by police gas, distribution of food to the most vulnerable women and children especially is being forbidden.

                      “If I don’t talk about the situation of LGBTQI people in France now ― or the rise of LGBTphobia etc (there would be many things to say too) ― it is because we have decided as a group of allies to denounce a situation that is almost as inhumane as the persecutions of gay men in Chechnya we were so shocked about recently.”

                      Maulpoix argued that Macron’s criticism of Vladimir Putin over his inaction over the Chechnya situation was an attempt “divert the gaze” from his own persecution of LGBT+ asylum seekers.

                      » Read more

                      21/07/17 | Posted in News | Tags ,

                      Winq Magazine

                      Winq magazine

                      Summer 2017

                      In the Summer 2017 issue of Winq – the premium quarterly journal for gay gentlemen, sister publication to Attitude – Sherlock actor Andrew Scott discusses his electrifying take on Hamlet, Ireland’s extraordinary transformation, and exploring his own inner darkness.

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