Civil Partnerships for all? (9 May 2017)

Date: 09/05/2017

Duncan Lewis, Main Solicitors, Civil Partnerships for all?

In February this year, the Court Of Appeal ruled that a heterosexual couple could not enter into a civil partnership instead of a marriage. Recent polling by Populus has found that three in five people in Great Britain believe that civil partnerships should be open to both hetero and homo-sexual couples.

The survey was conducted amongst 2000 people with 57% of the view that civil partnerships should be made available to couples of all sexual orientations. Only 20% were of the view that the civil partnerships should be abolished.

In the run up to the general election, it would seem that these poll results show that pledging to extend civil partnerships would be a popular choice for all political parties.

Matt Hawkins, Campaign Manager for the Equal Civil Partnerships Campaign, said:

“This survey adds to the mound of evidence demonstrating that giving every couple the option of getting a civil partnership would be the popular and fair thing to do. Over 76,000 people have already signed a petition calling on the government to extend civil partnerships, MPs from all parties support our cause, and countries such as France, Sweden, and New Zealand and regions of the British Isles like the Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, and Isle of Man have already shown that mixed-sex civil partnerships are easy to introduce and warmly welcomed.”

I recently went to a registry wedding, where the couple, of the opposite sex, had been together for nearly 20 years. They had resigned themselves to the fact that civil partnerships were not going to be available to them for the foreseeable future. Marriage historically treated women as chattel being passed from father to the husband and it was not all that long ago that rape within marriage became illegal. Therefore many women feel like marriage is not the institution they want to represent the relationship they have with their partner. However, as they had no choice but to get married their union came with all the negative connotations associated with that institution. They felt not having the option to enter into a civil partnership was discriminatory. Ideally, they wanted a legal union, which was more about how matters would be dealt with on a practical and legal basis, such as tax and division of assets after death, rather than about defining their relationship.

The Court of Appeal was clear it is for the government to decide when and how civil partnerships should be for available and for whom. All these permutations were debated when the Same Sex Marriage Bill was going through Parliament and seems to have been lost. This survey and petition with over 76,000 signatures reflects that it is long overdue to resurrect this debate and reach a resolution.

Laila Bhunnoo, the author, is a Solicitor-Advocate and a Director in the Family and Childcare Department. Specialising in representing parents, child’s guardians and children in all Children Act matters she is a member of the Law Society’s Children Panel and a Children Representative. She is an experienced advocate with Higher Rights of Audience, which entitles her to represent her clients at all levels of Courts. She is currently recommended by Chambers UK 2016 as a leading lawyer in her field for her family work in London. Her practice includes special guardianship orders, care orders, supervision orders and emergency protection orders, adoption within the UK and overseas, Child Abduction and Forced Marriage Protection Orders and FGM Orders.

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