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Government sets out plans for opposite-sex civil partnerships

Estimated read time: 3 mins

Carrie Tennick, July 10, 2019

The government has set out its plans for extending civil partnerships to opposite-sex couples by the end of 2019.

It follows last year’s announcement that it planned to introduce opposite-sex civil partnerships, after the supreme court ruled that it was discriminatory that they weren’t available to all couples.

The court’s decision was in response to a campaign by Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan, who said their inability to form a civil partnership was a breach of their human rights.

According to the government, extending the union will give couples who do not want to marry the chance to gain rights, protection and legal recognition of their relationships. It added that making civil partnerships more widely available will mean they “would no longer effectively be a declaration of sexual orientation”.

The right union

The Government Equality Office also announced that it is launching a consultation on how to ensure couples in England and Wales “can access the form of legal union that best suits them”. The consultation will run for six weeks, until 20 August 2019.

A period for conversion will also be provided, allowing opposite-sex couples the chance to convert their relationship into the format that wasn’t available previously.

There will be a fee for the conversion process, which will likely be the same as that currently charged to same-sex couples converting their civil partnerships to marriage.

Minister for women and equalities Penny Mordaunt explained: “There are all sorts of reasons why people may choose not to marry, but for a long time it has been the only option for many wanting the legal security it provides.

“Last year the prime minister announced government would support the extension of civil partnerships to opposite-sex couples. This is a fantastic step, providing an alternative to marriage for these couples.”

Legislative changes

With the incoming extension to civil partnerships, the government will introduce a number of changes to the laws surrounding the union.

For example, civil partners do not automatically have parental responsibility. The government intends to amend the law so that if a child’s parents were in a civil partnership at the time of birth or later form one, they will each have parental responsibility.

The government will also amend the original civil partnership act to allow overseas opposite-sex relationships that do not fall under marriage to be recognised as civil partnerships in England and Wales.

Protections for religious groups

The government said it would ensure the same protections that came with the introduction of same-sex marriage would be introduced with the extension of civil partnerships. This means religious groups will be able to choose whether they will host civil partnerships for same-sex couples only, opposite-sex couples only, both or no civil partnerships at all.

Currently, the Isle of Man is the only region where opposite-sex couples can enter into a civil partnership. However, these are not recognised elsewhere in the UK. This may change when the government brings in the new legislation.

Check out our guide for more information on the difference between marriage and civil partnership. And if you’re looking for legal advice on civil partnerships, just start your enquiry with First4Lawyers here.