Civil Partnership Act
The Civil Partnership Act 2004 came into force on 5 December 2005 across the UK. The Scottish Parliament voted in favour of allowing Westminster to legislate for Scotland in this Act. Civil partnerships were introduced for same sex couples only, across the UK. At the time there were legal and social objections to calling a same sex relationship a marriage. The view was that marriage could only be between a man and a woman. Marriage remained available only to opposite sex couples.
The first civil partnerships took place in Northern Ireland on 19 December 2005, followed by Scotland on 20 December 2005 and then England and Wales on 21 December 2005. They were not permitted on religious premises.
What are civil partnerships?
A civil partnership is a legally recognised relationship between two people of the same sex. It provided the same rights and responsibilities as civil marriage though some conditions of entitlement are different, for example pensions. Same sex couples now had official and public recognition of their relationship.
Civil partnerships were developed to give same sex couples the same legal status, rights and responsibilities as those given to opposite sex couples through marriage. These were given without the religious associations of marriage. Civil partnerships give same sex couple partners a secure legal status in matters like life insurance, pensions, inheritance and caring for their partner’s children. There They provide a legal basis for a partner to be respected as the next of kin in hospitals and within families.
What has happened since 2005?
As with other UK equality laws, at the time it was a progressive step. As increasing numbers of other states introduced marriage for all couples irrespective of gender, it began to look outdated and discriminatory to have separate institutions for same sex and mixed sex couples. From 2014 same sex couples can marry in England, Wales and Scotland. A civil partnership can be converted into a marriage.
Since 2011 civil partnerships have been permitted on religious premises in England and Wales. In Scotland a civil partnership ceremony can be conducted anywhere, civil or religious by someone approved to conduct a ceremony. Civil partnership ceremonies are not permitted on religious premises in Northern Ireland.
In February 2018, the UK and Scottish governments began reviewing civil partnerships, with a view to either opening them up to opposite-sex couples or scrapping them entirely. In June 2018, the Supreme Court ruled that allowing only same-sex couples to enter a civil partnership is discriminatory and incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.
Following the Supreme Court judgment the Scottish Parliament plans to introduce a bill in Autumn 2019 to allow mixed sex civil partnerships.
The Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths (Registration Etc.) Act 2019 opens the way for the first opposite-sex civil partnerships to take place in England and Wales by December 31 2019. The Act is a victory for equal civil partnership campaigners.