Petition calls for same-sex cheating to be included under UK adultery law, giving LGBT+ equality in divorce as well as marriage

Emma Powys Maurice
·2-min read

A government petition has been launched to make same-sex cheating an adulterous offence under UK divorce law.

Currently a divorce can only be granted if the court is satisfied that the marriage has “irretrievably broken down”. There are five specific grounds for proof, of which adultery is one – but only for heterosexual couples.

That’s because the legal definition of adultery only encompasses sexual intercourse “between a man and a woman”, meaning that same-sex cheating isn’t considered as adultery in the eyes of the law.

The petition calls for the Matrimonial Clauses Act 1973 to be revised to reflect same-sex relationships, giving LGBT+ people equality in divorce as well as marriage.

“The fact that the law specifically excludes same-sex conduct in matters of adultery is archaic and needs changing to represent the diversity of LGBTQ+ experiences and relationships,” said law student Isabella Potesta, who started the petition.

“Although there have been positive changes in recent years in terms of legalising same-sex marriage and increasing rights for LGBTQ+ people, we’re still not at the end of achieving LGBTQ+ equality,” she told PinkNews.

“Changing the law to include same-sex conduct would be incremental, but it’s a significant step to achieving equality across the board.”

While it’s unlikely that using adultery as grounds for divorce would grant an advantage in terms of child custody or settlements, the fact that it doesn’t apply to same-sex couples gives them fewer avenues to justify the separation.

The law as it stands permits same-sex couples only four grounds for divorce: unreasonable behaviour, desertion, separation for 2+ years if both parties agree, or separation for 5+ years with one party’s agreement.

Calls to change the law have been ongoing for years, with one woman complaining in 2015 that she was unable to divorce her husband on grounds of adultery even after she discovered he was having sex with ten different men.