Civil servants drafting UK marriage law lost for words over gay sex

Weeks before a draft marriage equality bill is released, ministers decide to allow judges define 'gay consummation' and 'gay adultery'

Civil servants drafting UK marriage law lost for words over gay sex
02 December 2012

Civil servants are currently lost for words as they attempt to draft the marriage equality bill for the UK government.

In a draft proposal, they cannot decide what constitutes consummation of a gay or lesbian relationship.

Weeks before the government has said it will publish its proposals for same-sex marriage, ministers have opted to leave the matter to judges to define, the Sunday Times reports.

Civil servants have reportedly been considering the intricacies of gay sex for months, and have taken evidence from sex experts and gay rights organizations in an attempt to what defines consummation between two women and two men.

In a straight relationship, consummation is only defined as complete penetration of the vagina by the penis, although it does not matter if a condom or ejaculation is involved.

While some believe consummation could be left out of the draft law, ministers have decided to make same-sex marriage an exact replica of opposite-sex marriage except for the right to marry in a church.

This means like with straights, gay couples will have to consummate their marriage for it to be valid. If they do not, it could lead to the union being annulled.

Under the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, a marriage can be annulled if one of the couple has the incapacity to consummate it, or a man or woman has wilfully refused to do so.

When the UK government introduced civil partnerships for same-sex couples in 2004 they avoided the issue, saying non-consummation was not a reason for declaring the union void.

If lesbian and gay couples also wish to annul their marriage because of adultery, they will also have to go in front of a judge for it to be defined.

In May 2012, ministers said they were considering taking sex out of the marriage law – for both straight and gay couples – entirely.

However Conservative MP Edward Leigh claimed it would reduce marriage to the level of a civil partnership.

‘It will have profound effects on the ability of individuals to have a marriage annulled’ he said.

‘This is important to Catholics for whom annulment is permitted by the church, but divorce is not.’

The UK government is expected to release their proposal for marriage equality shortly before the Christmas holiday in 2012.

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