Civil partnership conversion plea
A couple campaigning for a change to the rules governing the conversion of civil partnerships into full marriages are presenting a petition to the minister responsible for equal marriage today.
Jakki and Sheila Livesey-van Dorst will present the 38,000-strong petition to Nick Boles today in the hope it will help influence changes to the regulations that apply to those wishing to convert their civil partnerships into marriages.
After laws enabling same-sex marriage in England and Wales were passed last year, couples are to be allowed to convert their partnership into a marriage from December this year.
But those who are applying have hit out at regulations that they say have "no heart", which do not allow for a formal ceremony and can only take place at register offices during business hours on Monday to Friday. They will also be presented with a "certificate of conversion" rather than a marriage certificate, which they are concerned will not be recognised by some border officials.
Jakki Livesey-van Dorst, 60, who entered a civil partnership with Sheila in 2006, has compared the rules to getting a new tax disc for a car and has called for the Government to amend its plans to allow same-sex couples to have a marriage ceremony when they convert from a civil partnership.
The couple will present their petition, set up on online platform change.org, to Mr Boles today and will meet him to discuss their concerns, asking that revised rules provide: a marriage certificate; a choice of any approved venue; the presence of family and friends; and a marriage ceremony including marriage vows.
Ms Livesey-van Dorst, from Tiverton, Devon, who has been with 58-year-old Sheila for 22 years, said: "The Government's first set of rules for civil partnership conversion made what should be a celebration of love as romantic as applying for a new car tax disc, so we were delighted Nick Boles quickly withdrew these and has agreed to look again.
"Now nearly 40,000 people have signed onchange.org so we are hopeful he will take note of the strength of feeling on this issue and bring in new regulations before the first marriages of people in civil partnerships on December 10.
"At our meeting today we are asking the Government to make sure the same rights as any other couple getting married are upheld in the new rules; namely a marriage certificate, the choice of venue, the right to say wedding vows and to invite our loved ones to witness the ceremony.
"These changes will mean those of us who entered civil partnership as the only option at the time can feel that our relationships are valid and equal.
"We have strived our whole lives for equality, and so I hope Nick Boles will understand why it is so important that on the final step on that journey an equal ceremony, in front of our loved ones, matters."
A Government spokeswoman said: "Our priority is to ensure that couples in a civil partnership will be able convert it into a marriage from this December.
"We have listened to a range of views on the conversion process and we are looking again at the draft regulations."