Labour MPs offer support to government on mixed-sex civil partnerships
January 26, 2017
January 26, 2017
Labour will back the government if it introduces a Bill for mixed-sex civil partnerships say twenty-five of their MPs.
Currently civil partnerships are only available to same-sex couples. But in a letter sent today to the Minister for Women and Equalities Justine Greening Labour MPs say that should the government introduce a Bill to extend civil partnerships to mixed-sex civil partnerships it would be “welcomed and supported”.
Signatories to the letter include Chris Bryant, Liz Kendall, and the Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities Sarah Champion.
The Equal Civil Partnerships Campaign has described the intervention as “significant” because they say it shows that the idea of extending civil partnerships is one that unites Britain’s political parties. It also says that it makes it “tantalisingly possible” that civil partnerships could be extended soon.
In their letter to the Minister the Labour twenty-five explain why they are backing mixed-sex civil partnerships. They say:
“Extending civil partnerships to mixed-sex couples is about extending choice, offering legal protection to couples who do not feel that marriage is right for them, and about fairness. These are universal principles.”
They go on to say that such universal principles demand that parties work together:
“At a time of great political flux, it is important that MPs find common cause and work together to define the vision of a post-Brexit Britain. We want that Britain to be tolerant, enterprising, and forward-looking and we are sure you do too. Allowing mixed-sex couples the right to a civil partnership would be one piece of that jigsaw.”
The letter was coordinated and sent by Labour MP for Hammersmith Andy Slaughter. Mr Slaughter said:
“It’s not always the case that parties in parliament find common cause but MPs across the House are agreed that civil partnerships should be extended to mixed-sex couples. Doing so would extend choice and give more couples the opportunity to gain financial protection in a way that works for them. We have sent our letter today to leave the government in no doubt that if it were to introduce a Bill for mixed-sex civil partnerships, they should expect support from their colleagues on the Labour benches.”
Conservative MP Tim Loughton has long campaigned for civil partnerships to be made available to all. On Friday 13th January he presented a Private Members’ Bill to parliament to extend civil partnerships to all couples but the Bill was timed-out before a vote could be taken.
Mr Loughton responded to the Labour letter:
“I welcome the Labour Party’s support for my Private Member’s Bill and indeed it has been Labour Party policy previously. When there are further opportunities for debate on my Bill – or more likely adding amendments to other legislation – I look forward to welcoming Labour and other cross-party consensus to rally behind this long overdue equality reform.”
Matt Hawkins, Campaign Manager for the Equal Civil Partnerships Campaign said:
“This is a significant and very welcome intervention from this group of Labour MPs. Generally getting Bills through parliament relies on two things: public support and political support. Having handed in a petition of over 71,000 signatures calling for mixed-sex civil partnerships to Ms Greening last December she should be in no doubt that both of those boxes are ticked now a strong group of Labour MPs have gone on record in offering their support to the government on this issue. It’s brought us tantalisingly close to the result that so many mixed-sex couples want: the right to choose how they get legal protection for their relationship.”
A full copy of the letter:
To Ms Greening,
We the undersigned Labour Party Members of Parliament are writing to urge you to extend civil partnerships to different-sex couples.
It is clear to us that the current inequality that exists between mixed-sex and same-sex couples with regards their access to civil partnerships cannot continue indefinitely. 71,000 people have signed a petition asking that civil partnerships be made available to all; mixed-sex couples have travelled from the UK to the Isle of Man just to get a civil partnership; one couple has steadfastly pursued a court case seeking to overturn the ban on mixed-sex civil partnerships. This momentum shows no sign of abating.
Extending civil partnerships to mixed-sex couples is about extending choice, offering legal protection to couples who do not feel that marriage is right for them, and about fairness. These are universal principles.
A recent Private Members Bill presented by Tim Loughton MP did not make it to Committee Stage. Nonetheless, it gained cross-party backing, evidence that if a similar Bill were brought to Parliament by your Department it would be welcomed and supported.
At a time of great political flux, it is important that MPs find common cause and work together to define the vision of a post-Brexit Britain. We want that Britain to be tolerant, enterprising, and forward-looking and we are sure you do too. Allowing mixed-sex couples the right to a civil partnership would be one piece of that jigsaw.
With kind regards,