UK government to consider ‘phasing out’ civil partnerships, or opening them to straight couples

Prime Minister Theresa May

The UK government has said it will consider opening up civil partnerships to straight couples – or phasing them out altogether.

The government made the announcement in Parliament today after a Tory MP brought a private members’ bill on the issue .

Civil partnerships were introduced across the UK from 2004 as a form of union for gay couples ‘distinct’ from marriage.

The system was left in place after the introduction of same-sex marriage in England, Wales and Scotland – but critics have criticised the “inequality” of gay couples having two forms of possible union, while straight couples are only able to marry.

Conservative MP Tim Loughton, a historical opponent of equal marriage, used his one chance to table a private member’s bill in Parliament to press for change, branding the situation a “new inequality”.

Responding to his bill, junior Home Office minister Victoria Atkins explained: “Our amendment to it will require the Government to undertake a further review of the operation of civil partnerships, and to bring forward proposals for how the law ought to be changed so that the difference in treatment in the current system is resolved.

“The amendment will go further than the current marker clause in the Bill before the House, in that it will require the Government to report to Parliament and to include a full public consultation.

“I assure Members that this is a commitment on behalf of the Government. We are committed to resolving this issue, but we have to get some better evidence than we have at the moment in order to deal sensitively with the civil partnership issue.

“I wish it were a simple matter of changing a sentence in the Civil Partnership Act 2004, but we have to recognise that this is not just about eligibility; it is also about the rights that flow from any changes. For example, the rules for the dissolution of civil partnerships and divorce in the case of marriage are different for same-sex and opposite-sex partners.

“The Government intend to get on with this piece of work.”

(Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)

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