Civil partnerships to remain available to same sex couples only

Same sex couples will be able to convert their existing civil partnerships into marriages from 10 December 2014.  This provision was included in the Marriage (Same Sex) Couples Act 2013, although the Government delayed implementation.  Same sex couples have been able to marry since March 2014.

The Government announced on 26 July 2014 that civil partnerships will remain available to same sex couples only and not to opposite sex couples.

This is following a report by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport who launched a consultation regarding this issue in January. The consultation received in excess of 10,000 responses which found:

  • There was no united call for change from respondents to the consultation at this stage
  • Less than a third of respondents supported abolition of civil partnership;
  • The majority were against closing civil partnership to new couples;
  • Over three-quarters were against opening up civil partnership to opposite sex couples;
  • Several important organisations thought it was too soon to consider making changes to civil partnership – this should wait until the impact of extending marriage to same sex couples is known;
  • Other organisations, in contrast, put forward a case for opening up civil partnerships to opposite sex couples now, for example because civil partnership and marriage were different relationships and couples should have equal access to both.

The report concluded: “In time we will know how many same sex couples are marrying and how many entering a civil partnership, and how many couples are remaining in civil partnerships rather than converting them to marriages.  At present we do not have this information, and civil partnership conversion to marriage will not be available until December 2014.”

Emma Alfieri from Steeles Law's family team commented: “The decision has been heavily criticised, as some campaigners feel that it is unfair that same sex couples now have a legal advantage over straight couples, as they can now enter into a civil marriage or a civil partnership.  In contrast, opposite sex couples only have one option which is marriage.

This is an ongoing debate but the Government’s view is that it is too soon to consider making further changes to civil partnerships at this stage and this issue should wait until the impact of extending marriage to same sex couples is known.”

The Family Law Team at Steeles Law will update on this as matters develop.

To view the full report click here.

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