Wednesday 10 December 2014

Wedding bells were ringing at Sheffield Town Hall today when couples in civil partnerships became married for the first time.

Today is the first day that men and women in same-sex relationships who are already in a civil partnership can legally convert it to a marriage, following an announcement by the House of Lords earlier this year.

Couples first down the aisle at Sheffield Town Hall were invited to celebrate their marriage conversion at a champagne reception, attended by the Lord Mayor of Sheffield, Councillor Peter Rippon.

Sheffield’s first-ever civil partners, Dr Martin Hayes-Allen and Robert Foreman, were also the first couple to have their civil partnership converted in Sheffield, completing the conversion at 9:30am today.

Dr Hayes-Allen said “When Robert was ill, we faced issues with visiting rights, so when the civil partnership law was passed, we were banging on the door to be the first to secure the rights that civil partners have.

“We’re thrilled to be the first, once again, to convert our civil partnership and be a married couple.

“Since we became civil partners we feel a great sense of security and unity and although the conversion to marriage doesn’t have a great effect on our rights, it’s a big step forward for same-sex couples and the equality and respect we wish for.”

Sheffield’s registrars Gillian Richards and Yvonne Wood presided over 13 couples who said “I do” today, and will convert 16 more throughout December. The Town Hall’s ceremony rooms are also currently decorated with a Christmas tree and trimmings to create a magical and memorable experience for those marrying.

Councillor Julie Dore, Leader of Sheffield City Council, said: “Civil partnership conversions are something which many people have been campaigning for. I am absolutely delighted that we can now offer this opportunity for same sex couples to convert their civil partnerships in to a marriage.

“We were really proud to host one of the country’s first same sex marriages earlier this year and now that we can finally offer conversions, it feels like we are giving all couples equality and I wish Martin and Robert all the best for their future together in marriage.”

Siobhan and Elizabeth Newell-Day, who met in 2002 and became civil partners in 2012, also converted their relationship to a marriage this morning. Siobhan said “We’ve been waiting for this day ever since the equal marriage law came in, in March.

“Some people think it’s just a piece of paper, but to us it means and we can finally say ‘we’re married’ and share the rights that all other married couples have.

“The Town Hall looks so lovely and festive, which has made it a wonderful experience that we will look back on fondly.”

Couples who have registered a civil partnership overseas or in a consulate or armed forces base can also convert their civil partnership to a marriage at Sheffield Town Hall.

There is no fee if you registered your civil partnership before Saturday 29 March 2014, before there was an opportunity for same sex couple to officially marry. Couples who registered a civil partnership after this date or plan to register one in the future and then convert it to a marriage, will need to pay a £45 conversion fee.

Sheffield’s registry service has made the process as easy as possible. Both partners need to attend the Register Office together and the conversion can take place in Sheffield even if the civil partnership was celebrated elsewhere.

The conversion happens when couples sign a declaration confirming that their civil partnership has not been dissolved and that they both want to convert the relationship to a marriage. The conversion is then registered and a certificate of conversion issued.