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January 26, 2017

Labour MPs offer support to government on mixed-sex civil partnerships

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,

Andy Slaughter
Liz Kendall
Catherine West
Cat Smith
Chris Bryant
Yvonne Fovargue
Alex Cunningham
Stephen Twigg
Kerry McCarthy
Michael Gapes
Rob Marris
Jeff Smith
Jim Dowd
Roger Godsiff
Rupa Huq
Kate Green
Sarah Champion
Gavin Shuker
Angela Eagle
Heidi Alexander
Liz McInnes
Valerie Vaz
Carolyn Harris
Kelvin Hopkins
Paul Blomfield

January 13, 2017

Our response to parliamentary debate on mixed-sex civil partnerships

The Bill to extend civil partnerships to mixed-sex couples was debated in parliament today (Friday 13th January) but ran out of time before a vote could be taken. In response to the debate Equal Civil Partnerships Campaign Manager Matt Hawkins said:

“In today’s debate MPs from across the political divide spoke passionately – and almost unanimously – in favour of giving mixed-sex couples the right to get a civil partnership. MPs on all sides were in agreement that is the right, popular, and positive thing to do. Change will come – no matter how many minor administrative obstacles the government chooses to raise in objection: couples who have waited years for legal and protection financial protection are unlikely to be swayed by an argument about the number of textual amendments law makers will need to make just to give them the rights they seek and deserve. With over 71000 signatories on our petition for equal civil partnerships and MPs from every party backing our cause, we are confident that we will win through.”

The Bill will return to parliament on 24th March.

January 12, 2017

Statement from ECP Campaign in advance of parliamentary debate on mixed-sex civil partnerships

In advance of Friday’s debate in the House of Commons on Tim Loughton MP’s Private Members’ Bill to extend civil partnerships to mixed-sex couples, Equal Civil Partnerships Campaign Manager Matt Hawkins said:

“This Bill to give mixed-sex couples the right to get a civil partnership has achieved something pretty special – it has the enthusiastic support of MPs from nearly every major political party. Surely now it is only a matter of time before the government listens to the demands of MPs, including MPs in their own party, and the constituents they are representing and make civil partnerships available to all. Such a change simply extends choice and the right to financial and legal protection for couples and families. If it doesn’t happen with Tim’s Bill then Friday’s debate will still have been a major milestone on the road to equal civil partnerships.”

January 5, 2017

MPs asked to support civil partnerships Bill

On January 13th MPs have the chance to vote for a Bill to extend civil partnerships to mixed-sex couples.

The Bill itself is a Private Members’ Bill brought to parliament by the Conservative MP Tim Loughton. Unusually for a Private Members’ Bill it has cross-party support: Labour, Liberal Democrat, Green, and SDLP MPs have all sponsored Loughton’s Bill.

Private Members’ Bills do not normally pass into legislation. However, they do help to raise an issue up the agenda. The Equal Civil Partnerships Campaign hopes that if enough MPs turn out to support Loughton’s Bill we will be able to show the government the strength of support behind allowing mixed-sex civil partnerships. Supporters of equal civil partnerships can, in just a few clicks, email their MP asking them to attend the debate on the 13th.

November 26, 2016

A new and powerful way to create change…

The Equal Civil Partnerships Campaign is using a new website platform for campaigns called PostBug. This  allows you to send signed paper letters through the post to people in power at the click of a button.

We know that emails to MPs and Ministers have an impact but a physical letter can make even more of an impression. That’s why we have created this tool for our supporters – to give them a chance to send a powerful message to the Minister for Women and Equalities about why they want to see civil partnerships extended to mixed-gender couples.

To send you letter, simply click on this link

November 25, 2016

Cross-party letter urges government to allow mixed-sex civil partnerships

A cross-party letter has today been sent to Justine Greening, Minister for Women and Equalities, urging her to extend civil partnerships to mixed-gender couples.

The letter, signed by one MP from six different political parties, calls on Ms Greening to give government backing to a Bill that will be debated in parliament in January and which, if passed, would give all couples the right to get a civil partnership.

Conservative MP Tim Loughton formerly sent the letter to Ms Greening which was also signed by Andy Slaughter of Labour, Caroline Lucas from the Greens, Alistair Carmichael of the Liberal Democrats, Liz Saville Roberts from Plaid Cymru, and Martyn Day of the SNP.

In the letter the MPs say that the unequal access to civil partnerships “should not be allowed to continue.” They go on to say that “extending civil partnerships would ensure that every couple, regardless of their gender, would have the right to gain legal and financial protection in a way that works for them.”

The MPs also argue that allowing all couples to get a civil partnership would be popular. They point to the fact that over 70,000 people have signed a petition backing mixed-gender civil partnerships and the fact that MPs from every party have given their support to a new Early Day Motion calling for the extension of civil partnerships to all couples.

The MPs say:

“Politically the idea of extending civil partnerships is now generally approved. As a new EDM (EDM 619) shows, support for allowing mixed-gender couples to get a civil partnership is supported by MPs from all parties in parliament and the signatories of this letter represent to you the desire to extend civil partnerships held across the political spectrum.”

The letter concludes by asking Justine Greening to give government support to a Private Members’ Bill, championed by Tim Loughton, that seeks to give every couple the right to a civil partnership. Mr Loughton’s Bill will be debated in January.

Matt Hawkins, Campaign Manager for the Equal Civil Partnerships Campaign, said:

“Together with the 71000 signatures on our petition and the motion passed unanimously by the London Assembly backing mixed-gender civil partnerships, this letter sends a very powerful message to the government about the need to make civil partnerships available to all.

“Allowing mixed-gender couples to get a civil partnership simply means giving every couple the right to get legal and financial protection for their relationship in a way that works for them. It’s perhaps unsurprising that MPs from across the political spectrum are now united in supporting that basic right and we hope that the government will listen to their call and extend civil partnerships. They have nothing to lose and everything to gain by doing so.”

November 17, 2016

Mass petition calling for mixed-sex civil partnerships presented to government

A petition signed by over 70,000 people calling for the extension of civil partnerships to mixed-sex couples has been presented to the government this morning.

The petition, containing 71,410 signatures, was given to the Minister for Women and Equalities Justine Greening by supporters of the Equal Civil Partnerships Campaign along with some of their political backers – MPs Andy Slaughter and Tim Loughton and Baroness Lorely Burt. This week the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan also threw his weight behind the campaign in a letter written to the Equal Civil Partnerships Campaign.

The presentation came two weeks after the government admitted the current ban on mixed-sex civil partnerships could not continue indefinitely but claimed to lack evidence that the extension of civil partnerships would be popular. The claim was made by a government barrister defending the current ban in a court case brought to the High Court by Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan, a London-couple who want to get a civil partnership.

The barrister claimed that the government probably needed five years in order to decide the future of civil partnerships. Many campaigners are concerned that this means they are considering scrapping civil partnerships altogether.

Keidan was present at the petition hand-in. He said:

“Last week the government said it did not have enough evidence that civil partnerships for mixed-sex couples would be popular. So here we are today, removing any doubt from their minds! We really don’t want to have to continue battling for something that, to us, seems so simple and so right – giving all couples the right to get legal and financial protection in a way that they feel comfortable with. We want the government to embrace the change, not be forced into but one way and one day we are sure the change will be made.”

Conservative MP Tim Loughton said:

“With cross-party support from MPs, I have tabled a Private Members’ Bill that would make a simple change to the wording of the Civil Partnership Act 2004 and thereby allow equal civil partnerships.

“The Bill should come in front of the House early next year and if the Government were to support us we could be seeing mixed-gender couples getting civilly partnered in the not too distant future.”

Liberal Democrat Baroness Lorely Burt said:

“Equal marriage was a huge step forward for this country but has left a glaring equality gap. We should all be equal before the law regardless of our sexual orientation and the Government’s refusal to extend civil partnerships to opposite-sex couples is frankly ridiculous.

“I hope that this petition acts as a wakeup call to the Government for them to complete the work we started in Coalition and deliver equality for everyone.”

In a letter, sent direct to the Equal Civil Partnerships Campaign, the Mayor of London said:

“I am supportive of the Equal Civil Partnerships Campaign. I am passionate about achieving equality for everyone and that means giving mixed-sex couples the right to a civil partnership. I recognise that there are many reasons why some people may not want to enter into a traditional marriage, and agree that everyone should have the right to express their relationship in loving union that works for them.”

Andy Slaughter MP for Hammersmith said before the hand-in:

“The government has dragged its feet over this change for too long now. With 70,000 signatures on a petition, MPs from all parties backing the Equal Civil Partnerships Campaign, and couples flying to the Isle of Man to get civilly partnered it’s impossible for the government to keep up the idea that they don’t know if extending civil partnerships would be popular. As MP to Charles and Rebecca, the couple fighting for the right to get a civil partnership in the High Court, I am honoured to present this letter to Justine Greening and urge her to do the popular and pragmatic thing and open civil partnerships to all couples.”

 

November 9, 2016

Momentum builds following civil partnerships court case

Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan were given a fantastic reception outside the Royal Courts of Justice on 2nd November before heading in to fight their case for the extension of civil partnerships to mixed-sex couples.

As well as being greeted by a big crowd of supporters, their local MP Andy Slaughter, Deputy Leader of the Green Party Amelia Womack, and campaigner Peter Tatchell all gave speeches praising Charles and Rebecca for their fight.

Inside court the government continued to argue that there was not enough evidence to prove that mixed-sex couples want a civil partnership. In a new development, however, they admitted for the first time that the current inequality is untenable and that a decision on the future of civil partnerships will have to be made in the next five years.

Speaking after the case Campaign Manager Matt Hawkins said:

“We send a huge thanks to everyone who joined us outside court today and to all our supporters that have signed our petition and tweeted their wishes to Charles and Rebecca. The government has continued to argue that there is no evidence of the demand for extending civil partnerships but our supporters are proving that’s just not true. We will get our message through, regardless of the outcome in court.”

The campaign hopes to hear the outcome of the court case before the end of 2016.

November 2, 2016

London Assembly votes unanimously to back mixed-sex civil partnerships

The London Assembly has unanimously passed a motion backing the extension of civil partnerships to mixed-sex couples. This vote has been welcomed by the Equal Civil Partnerships who said it sends a “powerful message” and urged the government to follow the lead being set by City Hall by extending civil partnerships.

As it stands although marriage is available to all couples civil partnerships are restricted to same-sex couples. In January this year London couple Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan went to the High Court seeking to lift the ban on different-sex civil partnerships. Their appeal is being heard today.

Since the couple went to court in January 70,000 people have signed a petition calling for civil partnerships to be extended to mixed-sex couples and MPs from all parties have given their backing to the Equal Civil Partnerships Campaign which has been set up to support Charles and Rebecca.

The motion to the London Assembly was presented by Green Assembly Member Caroline Russell and backed by the Liberal Democrat’s Caroline Pidgeon. It follows the lead set by the London Assembly in 2000 when the body introduced same-sex partnership registration before civil partnerships came into law. The motion now goes to the Mayor Sadiq Khan for final approval.

Caroline Russell AM said:

“Whatever the outcome of the case currently being heard by the Court of Appeal we should be unequivocal in our support for different-sex couples forming civil partnerships.

“For true equality the law should properly reflect the values modern couples hold, and their desire to have these principles reflected in the legal recognition of their relationships.

“London is a forward-facing city and we should not hesitate to push for this next step to provide a legal alternative to marriage.”

Matt Hawkins, Campaign Manager for the Equal Civil Partnerships Campaign, said:

“In voting to support the extension of civil partnerships to mixed-sex couples the London Assembly has sent a powerful message to the government and has followed in the trailblazing footsteps this Assembly set back in 2000 when it introduced same-sex partnership registration. It adds to the amazing groundswell of support our campaign now has from MPs and MEPs of all parties, from our 71,000 petition supporters, and from organisations like Liberty and the Women’s Budget Group. We hope that the government now does the right thing, listens to the voices of the Assembly and the London Mayor and gives mixed-sex couples the right to the financial and legal protections that a civil partnerships offers.”

November 2, 2016

Government to appear in court over ban on different-sex civil partnerships

Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan will appear at the Royal Courts in London today seeking to overturn the government ban on different-sex civil partnerships.

Steinfeld and Keidan say that they want legal and financial protection for them and their daughter but have never felt comfortable with marriage. Their legal team will argue that the ban on different-sex civil partnerships is unfair because it treats people differently dependent on their sexuality

A public gathering will take place outside the Royal Courts in support of Steinfeld and Keidan attended by journalist and LGBT campaigner Owen Jones and many of the 70,000 supporters who have signed a petition calling for the extension of civil partnerships to mixed-sex couples.

Ms Steinfeld said:

“We are going to the Court of Appeal on behalf of ourselves and the more than 70,000 people who have signed our petition calling for civil partnerships to be open to all. Those people will have lots of different reasons for choosing not to get married: from personal experiences to principled objections, to simply not feeling ready. It’s not for the Government to dictate how couples choose to formalise their commitment but it is for the Government to ensure all couples are financially and legally protected.”

Mr Keidan said:

“The government has everything to gain by opening civil partnerships to different sex couples. Civil partnerships offer the possibility of legal protections and family stability for 3 million unmarried couples – the fastest growing family type in the UK. Civil partnerships already exist for same-sex couples. It would now be fair, straightforward and popular for the government to extend them to everyone.”

Alistair Carmichael MP helped to steer equal marriage through parliament in 2013. Mr Carmichael said:

“As an MP in the last Parliament I was proud to vote in favour of extending the right to marry to all couples who love each other, whether they are in a mixed-sex relationship or not. People need to be free to choose to celebrate their love however they want.

“My wife and I have been married for 29 years and I think that marriage is a great institution.   I realise, however, that it is not right for everyone and that many people want to have the legal protections that come from marriage without any of the other social or religious implications that come with it. For them, registering their relationship as a civil partnership should be available. It is no longer logical that this route should be open to people in same sex couples but not in mixed-sex relationships. The law needs to change.

“I’m supporting Rebecca and Charles and their campaign to ensure civil partnerships are an option for everyone. When the Court of Appeals announces their decision, I hope the Government will be quick to respond, and open up civil partnerships to anyone who wants one.”

Journalist and campaigner Owen Jones said:

“I’m really glad to be able to back this campaign. Many people don’t like the historic baggage of marriage and everyone should have the right to express their love in a way that works for them. I want equality for everyone and that means giving mixed-sex couples the right to a civil partnership.”

The couple sought a judicial review of the law after having their application for a civil partnership refused. Although they were unsuccessful at the first hearing in January, the judge said that she recognised the “wider public interest” of the case and that it was an issue “many would sympathise with”. The couple were given the right to appeal.

Louise Whitfield, a partner at Deighton Pierce Glynn, the legal firm representing Charles and Rebecca, said:

“We are very hopeful that the judges will realise the importance of this issue and how unfair the current arrangements are for couples like Charles and Rebecca.  Even though she dismissed the original case, the judge in the judicial review recognised how significant the unfairness was for many people’s right to family life, and she acknowledged that my clients should be allowed to have the issues considered by a higher court.  This is Charles and Rebecca’s chance to be treated fairly and equally in terms of how their relationship is recognised, a crucial legal right for them and many others.”

Since the first ruling, different sex civil partnerships have been introduced in the Isle of Man. The first civil partnership for a heterosexual couple took place there on Friday 14th October and on Friday 21st October Martin Loat and Claire Beale became the first different-sex couple from the UK to get a civil partnership in the British Isles when they flew to the Isle of Man for the ceremony.

Martin Loat said:

“We regard ourselves as one of the millions of happily unmarried couples in the UK. We want financial and legal protection for us and for our children but marriage just simply isn’t for us. We had a wonderful time visiting the Isle of Man but for many people living in the UK this simply isn’t an option. People should be able to get a civil partnership near their home and their family and I hope that after this court case the government will make that possible for all mixed-sex couples in the UK.”

The education campaigner and journalist Fiona Millar is one of a number of public figures supporting the Equal Civil Partnerships Campaign. Ms Millar said:

“Like many other people campaigning for equal civil partnership, we just want to have the same rights as same-sex couples. Every couple and every family should have the same legal rights regardless of how they choose to express their personal relationships. I am angry that an equalities minister is going to court, wasting public money, to stop a simple change in the law that could bring more equality.”