Tories to consider scrapping civil partnerships as gay couples opt for marriage instead

The government is to consider whether to scrap civil partnerships, as the vast majority of same-sex couples are opting for marriage.

Civil partnerships were introduced under the Labour government in 2004 as a segregated form of union only open to same-sex couples.

Thousands of couples initially rushed to take up the opportunity. However, following the introduction of equal marriage in 2014, the number of civil partnerships has crashed to just a few hundred a year – while many existing civil partners are opting to convert to a marriage.

In a document published last week by equalities minister Penny Mordaunt, the government outlined terms for a previously-announced review of the civil partnerships system.

Henry Kane and Christopher Flanagan laugh as confetti is thrown at them after they becoming the United Kingdom’s second gay couple to marry in a civil partnership on December 19, 2005. (Peter acdiarmid/Getty)

The report states: “There were 890 civil partnerships registered in 2016 in England and Wales, down from an average of 6,305 from 2007 to 2013.

“The Government is already looking at available data on the take-up of civil partnerships and marriage amongst same-sex couples.

“If demand for civil partnerships remains low and this becomes a stable position, this might suggest that same-sex couples no longer see this as a relevant way of recognising their relationships, and that Government should consider abolishing or phasing out civil partnerships entirely.”

Abolition of civil partnerships may be complicated as they are currently the only form of union open to same-sex couples in Northern Ireland, due to continued failure to secure marriage equality.

However, the government also notes: “If significant demand for civil partnerships remains over time, this may indicate that the institution still has relevance.”

The report leaves the door open to the possibility of opening civil partnerships to opposite-sex couples, amid a legal challenge seeking to secure the reform.

Grainne Close and Shannon Sickels show off their wedding rings after becoming the United Kingdom’s first gay couple to marry in a civil partnership on December 19, 2005. (Peter Macdiarmid/Getty)

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