February 6, 2018
The Campaign for Equal Civil Partnerships has welcomed the progress on February 2nd of Tim Loughton’s Civil Partnerships, Marriages & Deaths (Registration Etc.) Bill.
If carried, the Bill will oblige the Government to draw up a report to consider how best to end the current inequality whereby same-sex couples can choose between marriage and civil partnership, while opposite-sex couples only have access to the former.
The Bill was granted its second reading unanimously, which means that its objectives are supported ‘in principle’, and it will now be subjected to detailed scrutiny. The Campaign, however, has expressed concern that the Home Office Minister replying to the debate, Victoria Atkins MP explicitly kept open the option of addressing the current inequality by abolishing civil partnerships altogether, thus limiting the choice for same-sex couples and leaving those who have previously had civil partnerships in an uncertain legal limbo.
The Minister argued that the Government needs to assess the level of demand for same-sex civil partnerships following the introduction in 2014 of same-sex marriage. Mr Loughton, however, pointed out that in the past year the number of same-sex couples opting for a civil partnership rather than a marriage had actually increased.
Mr Loughton congratulated the Campaign for Equal Civil Partnerships and pointed out that 80,000 people have signed a petition calling for civil partnerships for all.* All but one of the MPs contributing to the debate also supported the extension of civil partnerships, arguing it would be fair, popular and would promote stable families.
Commenting, Charles Keidan and Rebecca Steinfeld, who are challenging the Government in the Supreme Court later this year over the current inequality, say:
“We are overwhelmed by the level of support for our campaign to provide access to legal and financial protection to the 3.3 million unmarried cohabiting couples in the UK who stand to benefit.”
“We call on the Government to rule out now the option of the abolition of same-sex civil partnerships now and to use the latter stages of the bill to legislate to extend civil partnerships to all.”
“Until the Government does, we will continue to fight for equality and civil partnerships for all in Parliament and through the courts.”
The Campaign welcomed a statement by Human Rights Campaigner, Peter Tatchell, that:
“Any attempt by the Government to abolish civil partnerships in the name of equality will be greeted with dismay by the LGBT community and provoke an almighty backlash. It will do catastrophic damage to relations between the Conservative party and LGBT people.”
The Bill will now be debated by Parliament over the next few months, although the Government has so far only committed to producing its report by Autumn 2019.
*In four days, since the second reading of the Bill, a further 30,000 supporters have signed the petition bringing the total to around 110,000.