Scots urged to have their say on the future of civil partnerships

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Scottish people are being urged to have their say on the future of civil partnerships by a leading LGBT rights group.

The Equality Network is running a consultation on the future of civil partnerships, currently only available to same-sex couples, now that the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act 2014 is in place.

Currently same-sex couples have the choice of a civil partnership or a marriage in Scotland.

However straight couples only have marriage as an option, as the law in Scotland, as in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, prevents them from entering a civil partnership.

In addition, straight couples in civil partnerships coming to the UK from abroad, also would have no legal recognition of their relationship in Scotland.

The Scottish Government will soon be consulting on the issue formally, and options offered for the future of civil partnerships are expected to be similar to the following:

  1. Keeping civil partnership and opening it up to mixed-sex couples, so that all couples have the choice of marriage or civil partnership in Scotland
  2. Keeping civil partnership but continuing to restrict it to same-sex couples only
  3. Phasing out civil partnership altogether so that marriage becomes the only option available to couples in future (existing civil partnerships would continue).

According to the survey introduction: “Around the world, in countries that allow same-sex marriage, some countries have both marriage and civil partnership open to all couples (e.g. the Netherlands, New Zealand, France), and some just have marriage (e.g. Portugal, Norway, Sweden) with no option of civil partnership. Only one jurisdiction in the world (England and Wales) has marriage open to all couples but restricts civil partnership to same-sex couples only.

“In Scotland, marriage and civil partnership have almost identical legal effects but they have different names and are legally a different status. For various reasons, some people prefer marriage and other people prefer civil partnership.”

Tom French, Policy and Public Affairs Coordinator for the Equality Network, said: “With the Scottish Government set to make a decision on the future of civil partnership in the coming months we want to make sure that it’s a decision properly informed by the views of LGBTI people.

“The institution of civil partnership has now been around in Scotland for over a decade and people will have a range of views on whether it should be opened up to mixed-sex couples, kept as it is, or abolished entirely. Over 1000 people have responded to our consultation in the past week and we hope that many more will take this opportunity to share their views.”

Following a consultation into the future of civil partnerships, the Government last June announced that the legislation for England and Wales will remain in place, unaltered.

A High Court judge earlier this year granted permission to proceed to a legal case against the British Government for its refusal to extend civil partnerships to opposite-sex couples.

The case was brought by couple Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan, who issued their grounds of challenge and witness statements to the High Court in December.

The couple a year before announced their engagement in a newspaper, but said that they would get civilly partnered rather than married, in order to push for full marriage equality.

The survey is available to fill in here.