Two years on, civil partners still face problems

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Many gay people are confused at the correct language to use when describing civil partnerships and some are forced into revealing their sexual orientation in situations which required disclosure of marital or partnership status, according to Citizen’s Advice.

New research released yesterday to coincide with the second anniversary of civil partnerships found that many same-sex couples who are in or who are planning civil partnerships, find there are many benefits to them and welcome them.

However, there are still potential emotional, financial and social costs.

The report highlighted the problems many civil partners are experiencing with financial services providers.

As reported on last month many institutions do not have an option for civil partners on their application forms.

Citizen’s Advice is calling for all banks and businesses to use the straight forward solution of having a single category of “married/civil partner” leaving the sexual orientation of any respondents unspecified.

Tom Togher, co-ordinator of the Village Citizens Advice Bureau, explained that the lack of provision for the legal status of civil partners could lead people to not disclose the full truth about their status, which could have legal implication.

“One of our early observations was this problem with financial institutions not having got their head round the change in status<2 he told

“We have assisted people in raising the issue with their banks.

“If someone is trying to for example, get a mortgage and that person is trying to give an honest answer, there are situations where you need to be honest.”

Participants were asked to imagine that as an individual in a CP, they were applying for a bank loan and on the form was a question about their marital status.

They were told that the options for their response were: married, civil partnerships, single co-habiting, divorced.

Though most people said they would in many ways be pleased to tick the box for CP, all expressed reservations about how the information would be used and who it would be shared with:

“The positive statement that you were lesbian or gay seems politically very important, that you are visible to register the fact that you are ticking the box to say you have had a civil partnership seems to be important.

“I suppose the other side is that there is a certain residual concern about what information is being held publicly and in a society where one sees the erosion of civil liberties and one sees fascist parties securing electoral success I suppose there has to be a slight anxiety about feeling so very public,” a gay man in a civil partnership said.

Since the introduction of civil partnerships gay individuals may be put in a situation where the fact that they have formed one may pressurise them into revealing their sexual orientation where they might not have chosen to do so otherwise.

Any circumstances which require disclosure of marital/partnership status would inevitably lead to a personal revelation unless information is explicitly withheld or false information is given.

This potential for forced outing has been termed a “socio-legal” issue on the basis that the individual has a legal duty to provide correct information in certain circumstances and yet may not want to do so due to the potential for social embarrassment.

Among those who had already undertaken a CP, individuals’ first awareness of the potential for forced outing arose when a relevant situation was encountered:

“I found it very difficult on the phone with my insurance, just trying to get the words out, you know ‘I’ve just had my civil partnership,’ but that’s one thing, face to face it would be another matter,” a lesbian in a civil partnership told Citizen’s Advice.

The report also found that people are struggling with the ambiguity of language surrounding civil partnerships and don’t know how to refer to their circumstances in social situations, due to a lack of conversational terms that are equivalent to the terms of the traditional marriage.

To read the full report click here.