Civil partners ready for legal fight to get married

Michael and Paul Atwal-Brice.
Michael and Paul Atwal-Brice.

A gay couple could sue the Government after being told they cannot marry without dissolving their civil partnership first.

Michael and Paul Atwal-Brice, of Thurnscoe, Barnsley, are considering action after finding out they would not be able to convert the partnership under new same-sex marriage laws, because of delays in implementing the Act.

The couple entered into a civil partnership in 2008, as marriage was not an option available to gay couples at the time.

When the legislation was passed in March, they planned to become one of the first couples to convert to marriage.

Paul, aged 34, who has two adopted sons with 29-year-old Michael, said: “We’re being penalised because we’re already in a civil partnership.

“No couple should be asked to divorce or dissolve to be able to get married. To dissolve a civil partnership, you have to go to court and have a valid reason.

“Wanting to stay together and be married is hardly a valid reason to dissolve a civil partnership.

“It’s not just the principle of the situation, there are legal and practical difficulties if we were forced to divorce.

“It’s just unfair and we have been left with no choice, but to seek legal advice to try and resolve this issue.”

The couple’s lawyers, at Sheffield firm Irwin Mitchell, have written to the Department for Culture, Media & Sport to inform the Government of potential judicial review action if the issue is not resolved.

They argued there are breaches of British equality and human rights law and asked to confirm the timetables for when the section which allows couples to convert their civil partnerships into marriage will apply.

Zoe Round, a specialist family lawyer, said: “Our clients are devastated at the prospect of having to go through a formal dissolution before they can get married.

“They had been waiting for this legislation for years and now, at the final hurdle, are finding the process just doesn’t seem to have been thought through.

“Why should they be forced to get a dissolution just to remarry? It seems absurd and we are supporting them in their fight.”