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Evolving Marriage Within a Latent Legal Framework: A time for Change? (RDF20/BL/LAW/CLAYTON-HELM)

Project Description

Marriage continues to retain a fundamental role in many peoples’ lives. According to the Office of National Statistics just over half the population of England and Wales over the age of 16 are married. Yet major changes have occurred in recent years. Whilst, overall the proportion of the popular who are married has decreased by 3.9% since 2002, in contrast there are a rising number of couples in a same-sex marriage. Recent legal disputes around the ability to enter into recognised relationships and have such statuses recognised highlight that the law on this area remains problematic (R (on the application of Steinfield and Keidan) v Secretary of State for International Development [2018] UKSC 32 and Akhter v Khan [2018] EWFC 54). While legal developments such as the 2018 Irish Referendum on same-sex marriage demonstrates that the law is attempting to keep up with societal change, uncertainty remains for many couples. Northern Ireland are now forced to legalise same-sex marriage after failing to re-establish a devolved government by 21st October 2019 in accordance with a deadline set by Westminster.

This PhD therefore invites candidates to explore the law on marriage, the focus of which could be on areas such as, but not limited to: the law on civil partnerships in relation to heterosexual couples; the age at which a person is able to marry; religious marriages or polygamy. It is also anticipated that the thesis might include other jurisdictions, both for comparison and as a consequence of the rise in international marriages, and the subsequent involvement of multiple jurisdictions to questions of recognition.

In addition to determining the focus of the research, candidates should also consider whether they wish to take a doctrinal, socio-legal or comparative approach to the methodology, and should set this out within their proposal.

Eligibility and How to Apply

Please note eligibility requirement:

- Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); or a Masters (preference for Merit or above); or APEL evidence of substantial practitioner achievement.
- Appropriate IELTS score, if required.
- Applicants cannot apply for this funding if currently engaged in Doctoral study at Northumbria or elsewhere.

For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see

Please note: Applications that do not include a research proposal of approximately 1,000 words (not a copy of the advert), or that do not include the advert reference (e.g. RDF20/…) will not be considered.

Deadline for applications: Friday 24 January 2020.

Start Date: 1 October 2020.

Northumbria University takes pride in, and values, the quality and diversity of our staff. We welcome applications from all members of the community. The University holds an Athena SWAN Bronze award in recognition of our commitment to improving employment practices for the advancement of gender equality.

Funding Notes

The studentship is available to Students Worldwide where a full stipend, paid for three years at RCUK rates (for 2019/20, this is £15,009 pa) and full fees.


1. Forthcoming: April 2020; As Lead Editor to be published by Routledge, Hamilton, F., and Noto La Diega, G., 'Same-Sex Relationships, Law and Social Change', ISBN 978-0-367-07609-2 to include chapters by:

Clayton-Helm, L., ‘Harmonisation of Choice of Law Rules on Same-Sex Marriage: An International Perspective.’

Hamilton, F., ‘The Potential of European Union Law to Further Advance LGBTQ+ Persons and Same-Sex Couples’ Rights and the Resulting Consequence of Brexit.’

2. Hamilton, F., ‘Rights For LGBTQ Persons: MB v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (2019) Family Law (1) 54 – 57.

3. Hamilton, F., ‘Same-Sex Marriage, Consensus, Certainty and the European Court of Human Rights’ (2018) 1 European Human Rights Law Review 33 – 45.

4. Hamilton, F., ‘The Case for Same-Sex Marriage Before the European Court of Human Rights’ (2017) Journal of Homosexuality 1-25.

5. Hamilton, F., and Clayton-Helm, L., Same Sex Relationships Choice of Law and the Continued Recognised Relationship Theory’ 3(1) (2016) Journal of International and Comparative Law 1 -31.

6. Hamilton, F., ‘The Differing Treatment of Same Sex Couples by European Union Law and the European Convention on Human Rights: The European Union Concept of Citizenship’ 2.1 (2015) Journal of International and Comparative Law 87-113.

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