The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 has this week reached its 10-year anniversary since receiving Royal Assent on 17th July 2013 with the first same sex marriage held in March the following year.
The Act was drafted by Government Legal Department (GLD) lawyers, the Office for Parliamentary Council, Government Equalities Office, and other government departments.
It allowed same sex couples to marry, whether in a civil ceremony or a religious one, where the religious organisation allowed such marriages. Crucially, the Act provided protection for those religious organisations that did not want to authorise such marriages, thereby ensuring freedom of religion for all religious organisations.
The Act took account of everything from marriage and civil partnership in England and Wales, consular and armed forces marriage, divorce law, and the law on the Church of England. The GLD this week said that “there were many challenges along the way, particularly with crafting appropriate religious protections for those religious organisations that did not support same sex marriage”.
GLD lawyers Tracey Kerr and Suzanne Lehrer who worked on the Act, and who are still at GLD, gave their thoughts. Tracey Kerr, Deputy Legal Director at the Department for Education, said:
“Leading the amazing GLD legal team who worked on this legislation has been one of the highlights of my career so far. To be at the forefront of delivering this and other life changing law for so many people is one of the main reasons why I love my job. It’s the perfect combination of challenging legal issues and making a real difference.”
Suzanne Lehrer, Senior Lawyer at the Department for Education, said:
“I worked on the Bill and its implementation. It was very satisfying to take a policy right from the start up to its coming into force – especially one with such a huge impact on people’s lives. I’ve been to a wedding that happened because of the Act, which was all the more special as a result. It’s the work I’m most proud of in my career as a government lawyer.”