For civil-partnered couples in Wales and England today (Wednesday 10th December) is a key date – from today Civil Partnerships can be legally converted to marriage.
BCN Editor Jen Yockney writes:
For a decade Civil Partnerships have been the “separate but equal” excuse for the gender restrictions on marriage – that wasn’t equal in either name or detail.
Now as well as marriage there is conversion for what I think some see as a kind of legacy relationship recognition: almost like those machines that convert your vinyl to mp3 because there’s only one imaginable direction of conversion.
It’s a one-way trip, with no option for married people to become civilly partnered, and Civil Partnerships remain exclusively the domain of those the law sees as in same-sex relationships.
For every partnered couple it will be a particular individual choice, but collectively the number of people who convert may have an important impact on government policy on this issue in the next Parliament.
The last government deliberately removed mixed-sex couples from the civil partnership legislation before it became law, while the current one brought forward same-sex marriage for Wales and England, but refused to open up civil partnerships in a mirror of what was happening to marriage. Devolved Scotland largely marched in step, behind on the calendar but ahead on the detail, while Northern Ireland held out against the tide of history.
If lots of people keep hold of their civil partnerships it may help them to be seen as subtly different in quality in a way that leads the next government to review the bar to mixed-sex civil partnership registration. A tidal wave of conversion, though, and it will only be Northern Ireland stopping them being scrapped.
Who knows, maybe the Parliament after that we will even see UK-wide partnership legislation fit for the 21st century.