The Act worked on by Government Legal Department lawyers gained Royal Assent on 17 July 2013

The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 gained Royal Assent on 17 July 2013, after months of intense work. Further implementation work followed, with the first same sex marriage held in March 2014.

The Act was drafted by 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 required legal knowledge on 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. 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, said of their work:

Tracey Kerr, Deputy Legal Director at the Department for Education, “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, “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.”

GLD is responsible for delivering legal services to the government so it may deliver on its priorities. Our work on life-changing law is at the heart of every Act and every legal case involving the government, impacting the lives of citizens up and down the country. GLD has offices in London, Croydon, Leeds, Bristol and Manchester.

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