History was made on 5 December 2005 when for the first time gay and lesbian couples were able to give notice of their intention to register their relationship as a civil partnership and then “marry” fifteen days later thereby acquiring rights comparable to those previously only enjoyed by heterosexual married couples. “This is a landmark Act for gays and lesbians in this country and one which they have needed for a long time,” said Melanie Hamer partner at Wendy Hopkins Family Law Practice.
On the first ten days, the Registry Office in Cardiff received 52 notices from gay and lesbian couples of their intention to register as civil partners (compared to 44 notices during the same period from heterosexuals of their intention to marry). Elton John and David Furnish have already announced their intention to marry on 21/12/05 which will make them one of the first gay couples in the UK to do so. Six gay and lesbian weddings are planned to take place in and around Cardiff that day.
It is estimated that there are 300,000 gays and lesbians in Wales, and that across England and Wales 30,000 gay and lesbian couples will get married in the first 12 months and 425 000 such couples will marry“ over the next 10 years.
This is going to mean a big increase in work for family lawyers: firstly gay and lesbian couples should think about entering a form of pre nuptial agreement to protect their wealth before entering a civil partnership; secondly, they will need to make new wills since registering a civil partnership will invalidate existing wills; thirdly, in the event that the relationship breaks down they will go through a form of divorce and be able to make financial claims against one another.
“Traditionally, family lawyers in this country have dealt with divorces of heterosexual couples. Times have now changed and family lawyers need to change to keep up with the times. Our Firm will be one of the first in Wales to provide a complete family law service for this new group of clients” said Ms Hamer.
The “pink pound” is currently estimated to be worth £5 million and research suggests that the gay wedding market alone will hit £600 million a year.