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Relationships: Contemporary context

Even in the early 21st century Parliament continues to pass legislation that reflects the nature of modern relationships.

Civil partnerships

The Civil Partnership Act 2004, for example, granted civil partnerships to same-sex couples in the United Kingdom with rights and responsibilities identical to civil marriage.

Although the Act was intended to apply only to England and Wales, the devolved Scottish Parliament passed a Legislative Consent Motion which allowed Westminster to legislate on behalf of Scotland.

Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013

In 2013, Parliament passed the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act which introduced civil marriage for same-sex couples in England and Wales. The legislation allowed religious organisations to opt in to marry same-sex couples should they wish to do so and protected religious organisations and their representatives from successful legal challenge if they did not wish to marry same-sex couples. The legislation also enabled civil partners to convert their civil partnership into marriage and transsexual people to change their legal gender without necessarily having to end their existing marriage.

In Scotland, the Scottish Parliament has legislated to allow same-sex marriages. The Northern Ireland Assembly has not legislated to allow the marriage of same-sex couples in Northern Ireland.

The first same-sex marriages in England and Wales took place in March 2014.

Page last updated September 2016.

Related information

Current parliamentary business on the topic of civil partnerships

Historic Hansard

Lords Hansard

The House of Lords debates the Civil Partnership Bill