Myths surrounding same-sex relationships
UK law has evolved substantially in the last 17 years to recognise a variety of different family structures. Despite these legal changes there are still a number of misconceptions about the law surrounding same-sex families. To celebrate Pride we have decided to dispel some of the more common misconceptions.
Same-sex couples can enter into a civil partnership but only heterosexual couples can get married.
False. Same-sex couples have been able to enter into civil partnerships since 1 December 2005 and same-sex marriages have been taking place since 29 March 2014.
The grounds for a divorce/dissolution are the same whether you are in a same-sex relationship or a heterosexual relationship.
False. Adultery can be relied upon by heterosexual couples as the basis for a divorce petition but this is not available to same-sex couples wishing to divorce or dissolve their civil partnership. This is because adultery is defined in UK law as “sexual intercourse between a man and a woman who are not married to one another”. However, if you are in a same-sex relationship and you believe your partner has been unfaithful then this can be an example of unreasonable behaviour.
Same-sex parents cannot be full and equal legal parents in the same way heterosexual parents can.
False. The Adoption and Children Act 2002 allowed same-sex parents to become equal legal parents for the first time. This meant that same-sex couples could adopt children together as well as adopt their partner’s children. Same-sex couples could therefore be named as the legal parents on an adoption certificate in the same way heterosexual couples could.
The law then went one step further and in 2009 the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 came into force allowing female same-sex couples to both be registered on a child’s birth certificate. If the couple were in a civil partnership or received fertility treatment together at a UK fertility clinic then the female same-sex couple would be the child’s joint legal parents from birth and they would not have to go through the adoption process to secure equal parental rights.
Lesbian couples can have a child together but gay couples cannot.
False. Gay dads have been able to adopt children since December 2005 when lesbian couples were given this right too. Although lesbian couples have been able to go on a child’s birth certificate since 2009, it took a bit longer for the law to change to allow gay dads to both be registered on a child’s birth certificate too.
Changes to UK surrogacy laws came into force in 2010 so that gay dads could obtain a parental order for a child conceived with the assistance of a surrogate so that the child’s birth certificate would record two men as the child’s legal parents.
Since January 2019 single men have also been able to apply for a parental order, regardless of their sexual orientation.
Same-sex couples cannot adopt a child in care.
False. Gay and lesbian single persons, as well as same-sex couples, have the same rights to adopt a child as heterosexual couples and single heterosexual persons. The UK is only one of 14 countries where same-sex couples can legally adopt children and adoption agencies are not allowed to refuse somebody as a potential adopter based on their sexual orientation.
If a same-sex couple separate, the person with a biological link to the child has more rights than the other parent.
False. If parents separate and an agreement cannot be reached as to the arrangements for the child, the focus in any subsequent Court proceedings will be on the welfare of the child. The Court will be far more concerned with how the child has been parented before the separation and who is best placed to meet the child’s ongoing needs rather than on any biological link.