- Northern Ireland will even waive the fee if you convert in the first year.
Same-sex couples in Northern Ireland will be able to convert their civil partnerships into marriage.
The Northern Ireland Office has confirmed the law will come into force on 7 December.
It marks the end of a long battle to win marriage equality in the region. While England, Wales and Scotland passed same-sex since 2014, it took until 2019 for Northern Ireland. And the first couples didn’t wed there until January this year.
That law was actually passed in the UK parliament in London while Northern Ireland’s own regional government was on an extended hiatus as politicians couldn’t agree to work together.
But after marriage equality came in, the government held a six-week public consultation on what conversion rights couples should have in Northern Ireland.
The result is a three-year window for anyone in an existing civil partnership to turn it into a marriage if they choose. Moreover, the fee for making the change won’t apply in the first year.
Moreover, opposite-sex couples will also be able to convert their marriages into a civil partnership.
If a couple makes a change, it will be backdated. The law will then treat them as having been married from the date they first registered their civil partnership. There are more than 1,300 couples in a civil partnership in Northern Ireland.
‘Last stage in achieving full marriage equality’
The UK government’s Northern Ireland minister, Robin Walker, said:
‘It is right that all couples in Northern Ireland now have access to the equivalent legal relationships and associated rights, protections and entitlements, as couples living in the rest of the UK.
‘I am pleased that we have been able to bring forward the necessary regulations to make this possible.’
The UK government is now handing back control of the issue to the Northern Ireland Assembly which is now sitting again.
Meanwhile, Patrick Corrigan, Northern Ireland director of Amnesty International and a long-term campaigner for marriage equality, said it was ‘the last stage in achieving full marriage equality’.
He added: ‘We fought to change the law so it would cherish all couples and all families equally and now we have achieved that – first with civil marriage, then religious marriage and now finally, with civil partnership conversion.’