A Civil Anomaly?

BCN 126 cover

This originally appeared in BCN issue 126, August 2014

Where now for Civil Partnerships?

As the same-sex marriage bills made their way through Westminster and Holyrood (and slammed into a solid wall of opposition at Stormont) there was a whisper or two about what might happen next for Civil Partnerships.

Civil partnerships had been a great success over the past decade, with three times as many people registering as the civil service anticipated at the time of their introduction.
With marriage now open to (almost) all, though, civil partnerships become a peculiar anomaly. They are open only to same-sex couples, and come with a slightly different set of accompanying rights and responsibilities from marriage.

The argument for reforming them is one of equality: that civil partnerships should like other social institutions be open to all regardless of gender.

Rather than debate them at the same time as same-sex marriage, the government promised to come back to civil partnerships later.  Many of us may have assumed they would either be abolished or opened up to any couple, and a public consultation was held earlier this year to ask what should be done, with the findings recently published.

Hopes of civil partnerships for mixed-sex couples have hit the buffers hard.  It was going to be an uphill battle at best: they were removed from the original civil partnerships bill under the last Labour government, David Cameron has spoken out against the idea, and now a third strike against them: the public consultation went hugely against the idea – albeit while not seeking to scrap civil partnership for same-sex couples and force conversion to marriage.

With free conversion for civil partnerships into marriage starting this December in Wales & England, it would seem most likely that civil partnerships will now be left to see if they fade away of their own accord. Five years from now they could be a strange proof that either your relationship has lasted the test of time, or you’re from Northern Ireland.