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October 3, 2018

Government to change the law to allow opposite-sex couples to enter into civil partnership

The full text of the press release issued by the Government yesterday morning.

The Government will change the law to allow opposite-sex couples in England and Wales to enter into a civil partnership.

Under the current system, same-sex couples can choose to marry or register for a civil partnership whereas opposite-sex couples can only get married.

Extending civil partnerships to opposite-sex couples will not only address this imbalance, it will also provide greater security for couples who want to gain legal recognition for their relationship.

There are over 3.3 million unmarried couple families in the UK living together with shared financial responsibilities and nearly half of them with children. These households do not have the same legal protections as those who have a civil partnership or marriage.

Prime Minister Theresa May said: “This change in the law helps protect the interests of opposite-sex couples who want to commit, want to formalise their relationship but don’t necessarily want to get married. As Home Secretary, I was proud to sponsor the legislation that created equal marriage. Now, by extending civil partnerships, we are making sure that all couples, be they same-sex or opposite-sex, are given the same choices in life.”

Equalities Minster, Penny Mordaunt, said: “This is an important step forward for equality. There are all sorts of reasons why people may choose not to marry.  By giving couples this option we hope to give them and their families more certainty and security.

I pay tribute to all who have campaigned for this change and will introduce the change as swiftly as possible.”

Extending civil partnerships to opposite-sex couples will provide a positive alternative for couples who might not have legally committed to each other otherwise.

The ability for couples to formalise their relationship encourages greater commitment, leading to greater family stability and greater security within relationships to help protect children’s interests.

Many unmarried couples in a long-standing relationship believe that they have acquired rights similar to those of married couples but in fact there is no such thing as ‘common law marriage’, no matter how long a couple have lived together, even if they have children together.

This means cohabiting partners are not eligible for tax reliefs and exemptions for spouses and civil partners, including the inheritance tax exemption and the marriage income tax allowance.

In addition, a surviving cohabitant has no automatic right to inherit their partner’s estate, meaning they might not be able to afford to stay in the family home.

Bereavement Support Payments do not apply to cohabiting couples; a cohabitant does not benefit from their partner’s contributions for the purposes of state pensions and many occupational pension schemes do not provide the same survivor benefits to such couples.

Nor do unmarried couples have a guaranteed right to ownership of each other’s property on relationship breakdown. (A court may determine the shares based on the individual circumstances of their financial arrangements.)

There are a number of legal issues to consider, across pension and family law, and the Government will now consult on the technical detail.

October 2, 2018

PM says mixed-sex couples can enter into civil partnerships

The Government has announced today that it will now commit to extending civil partnerships to all.

The commitment, announced in today’s Evening Standard, is a response to the Supreme Court decision in June that a policy of single-sex civil partnerships only is discriminatory. However, no time-frame has been provided yet for the new legislation.

Martin Loat, Chair of the Equal Civil Partnerships campaign, says:

“We welcome today’s announcement as another important step forward towards civil partnerships for all.  Legislation would be fair, popular and promote stable families. Millions of couples will join us in thanking Penny Mordaunt, the Equalities Minister, for her support in getting to this point.   A promise is a promise but what we need now is action, and soon.  The Equal Civil Partnerships campaign won’t rest until legislation is in place and we are still not there yet.

“The next Parliamentary opportunity to amend the law will be the Report Stage of Tim Loughton MP’s Civil Partnerships, Marriages & Deaths (Registration Etc.) Bill on Friday 26th October.  The Campaign is waiting to hear from the Government how it will now legislate to make good on its promise.”

Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan, whose battle for a civil partnership, has taken them through the British courts up to their win in the Supreme Court, say:

“This is great news and a major step in the right direction, but we will only celebrate when legislation is agreed and the Government confirms the date for when the first different-sex civil partnership can take place. Change is long overdue. We’ve been struggling for four long years to open civil partnerships to all for the millions of couples like us who want legal recognition and financial protection for their relationship.

“Now we urge the Government to finish the job so that couples such as Joanna and Steve, who has terminal cancer, can celebrate their love for each other in a way that is meaningful to them, before it is too late.”