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Grounds for Divorce: Why is there no gay Adultery in the UK?

A recent campaign has been launched to change the definition of adultery when obtaining a divorce after a woman was unable to cite adultery after her husband had affairs only with members of the same sex.

Under UK law adultery can only occur between members of the opposite sex and must involve vaginal intercourse, with a campaign now underway to change the definition in the legal sense. Case law defines adultery as “voluntary sexual intercourse between a man and a woman who are not married to each other but one or both of whom is or are married.”

The woman, who spoke on BBC Radio Four stated that her husband of twenty years had numerous affairs with men throughout their marriage, however, she was forced to cite unreasonable behaviour as the reason for the divorce rather than adultery.

Campaign to Change Definition

The woman, who did not give her name to be publicised, stated that although she felt her husband had cheated and betrayed her, she was unable to cite the real reason. Although it had no effect on the financial settlement and her ability to divorce, she is campaigning to change the definition of adultery in the UK to ensure that divorce law “grew up” with the lifestyle and way of living of the 21st Century.

She has since began a campaign to change the law as she believes that many people “care hugely about the betrayal and want to know that somebody somewhere has recognised that” Despite stating that there was no shame in being gay she believes that it is important that people are honest and open to others and that marriage law is relevant to the modern day.

Although divorces differ across the UK, with England and Scotland having a number of different grounds for divorce, adultery is defined in the same way in both countries and does not involve members of the same sex.

It is not the first time that such an issue with the definition of adultery has been raised. During a focus group of the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act 2014, The Equality Network, a Scottish gay rights group, held focus groups with their members. However, these members didn’t feel the law on adultery needed to change. Unreasonable behaviour was considered to be sufficient.

Grounds for Divorce

In Scotland, there are two grounds for divorce, one being that the marriage has broken down irretrievably and the other that one of the partners to the marriage has an interim gender recognition certificate. Irretrievable breakdown of the marriage can be proved by adultery, unreasonable behaviour or you’ve lived apart for at least one year and you both agree to the divorce or lived apart for at least two years but one of you doesn’t agree to the divorce.

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At McCarthy Law, we understand how difficult it can be to get a divorce and we look to make the process as simple and straightforward as possible. If you wish to begin divorce proceedings, contact us today using our online contact form.