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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.”

October 21, 2016

London couple to become first UK citizens to get a different-sex civil partnership

martin-and-claire

Martin and Claire

A woman and man from London will today become the first UK-based heterosexual couple to enter into a civil partnership in the British Isles. The couple have to travel to the Isle of Man for the ceremony as different-sex civil partnerships are currently not available to couples living in the UK.

Claire Beale and Martin Loat, who reside in Ealing in west London with their two children aged 14 and 10, have lived together since 1992. They have said that they want a formal recognition of the relationship but they have never wanted to get married.

But, despite being legal for same-sex couples since 2004, civil partnerships are not permitted for different-sex couples in the UK. The Isle of Man, which is a Crown Dependency but not part of the UK, introduced different-sex civil partnership in July this year.

Ms Beale and Mr Loat have decided to form their civil partnership in the Isle of Man so they can achieve the legal recognition for their relationship that they have always wanted in the only form that is available to them today. They hope that that either the UK government will have to follow the Isle of Man’s lead and end discrimination against heterosexuals seeking civil partnerships, or that pressure will build until such a civil partnership formed in the Isle of Man will be deemed as valid in the UK.

“We respect that other people in committed, lasting relationships might want to opt for marriage, but it’s not right for us,” they said. “We regard ourselves as one of the millions of ‘happily unmarried’ couples in the UK.  We want a less encumbered, light-touch civil union that recognises our relationship on our terms, free from the trappings and social pre-conditions of marriage, while protecting our family financially and in law.”

Last week Adeline Cosson and Kieran Hodgson became the first ever different-sex couple in the British Isles to get a civil partnership. As residents of the Isle of the Man their union will be recognised by their home government unlike Ms Beale and Mr Loat, who must hope for a change in UK law.

The Isle of Man ceremonies come less than two weeks before the Appeal court in London is due to hear the case of another London couple – Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan – who have brought a legal case against HM Government on the grounds that the ban on different-sex civil partnerships goes against the Human Right Act. The couple lost the first ruling on their case in January this year.

They decided to appeal following a wave of public support which has seen 70,000 people sign an online petition in support of civil partnerships being open to all, regardless of sexual orientation

Both the London couples are part of the campaign for Equal Civil Partnerships.

Mr Loat added: “We now have 0.1% of British Isles sewn up, only another 99.1% to go!”

October 16, 2016

First different-sex civil partnership celebrated in British Isles

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Adeline Cosson, 24, and Kieran Hodgson, 22, have become the first ever different-sex couple in the British Isles to enter into a civil partnership.

The couple, who live on the Isle of Man, had a ceremony in Douglas in the morning of Friday 14th. Although civil partnerships are not currently available for different-sex couples living in the United Kingdom, they are available in the Isle of Man which is separate from the UK. They were introduced on the Isle this summer.

Cosson and Hodgson said they wanted to “keep it simple”.

Cosson said “We didn’t want to call it a marriage, we wanted to call it a civil partnership…We were told we were the first ever. We are very proud to do it.

“The main thing was that we wanted to keep it simple. We are a young couple. We do want to get married one day but not now; at a later date. This gives us rights under the law.

“It helps couples move forward without having to get married right now. To create full equality on the Isle of Man, they have allowed gay couples to get married but also to start civil partnerships.”

Commenting on Cosson and Hodgson’s union, Matt Hawkins, of the Equal Civil Partnerships Campaign, said: “I’m delighted to send congratulations to Adeline and Kieran. I hope that the joy they share in their civil partnership is one that many different-sex couples across the British Isles will soon be able to experience.

“It seems remarkable that different-sex couples in Britain are now just a stone’s throw away from getting a civil partnership. Extending civil partnerships extends choice and gives couples who do not feel a marriage is right for them the chance to gain legal and financial protection for their relationship and, if they have any, their children.

“With our 70,000 supporters, politicians backing us from every party, and endorsements from fantastic organisations, we are confident that that choice and opportunity will soon be extended and Adeline and Kieran’s example followed by couples across Britain.”


Note:

Since Cosson and Hodgson’s union was announced the Equal Civil Partnerships Campaign has received a number of inquiries from people asking if they could go to the Isle of Man from the UK, get a civil partnerships and then have it recognised back in Britain. At present it is unclear since this has never been tested in law before. The French equivalent of a civil partnership – pacs – has been recognised but we expect that is because the legal rights gained by couples who enter into them are less than those of a marriage. It will require a “test case” to be undertaken whereby a couple tries to have the rights gained from a civil partnership entered into on the Isle of Man recognised in the UK.

October 7, 2016

Campaign writes to London Mayor and Jersey Ministers

khan-and-gorst

The Equal Civil Partnerships this week wrote to the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and the Chief Minister of Jersey Ian Gorst asking for their support.

We have good reason to believe that in these bids we will be successful.

Our campaign now has the backing of London Assembly Members from the Conservatives, Labour, and the Liberal Democrats. In 2000 City Hall in London did something brave and bold: it introduced the first ever registration scheme for same-sex couples, the first step along the way to civil partnerships and ultimately equal marriage. We want the Mayor to follow that legacy and the lead of his Assembly Members and use his position to promote and push for the extension of civil partnerships. We’ve requested a meeting with Sadiq so watch this space!

We also wrote to the Chief Minister in Jersey. Jersey is in the process of introducing same-sex marriage and in our letter we urged the States (as they are known) to do what the British government should have done in 2013: extend civil partnerships. With the precedent now set by the Isle of Man for this cause, we have great hope that Chief Minister Gorst will be open to the idea.

The letters went in the post yesterday so we will keep you updated once we have news!

 

 

September 16, 2016

Over half of respondents to Scottish government survey support extending civil partnerships

More than half of respondents (52%) to a Scottish government consultation on civil partnerships think they should be extended to different-sex couples.what-should-happen-to-cps

The option of extending civil partnerships had the support of an overwhelming majority of those who completed the survey. Less than 30% now believe that civil partnerships should not be extended.

The data was obtained by the Equal Civil Partnerships Campaign from the Scottish government. Matt Hawkins, Campaign Manager for the Equal Civil Partnerships Campaign, said:

“The results of the Scottish government’s consultation adds to the momentum behind our call for the extension of civil partnerships to different-sex couples. This summer the Isle of Man introduced different-sex civil partnerships and over 70,000 people have signed our petition asking the British government to do the same. We’re simply asking that more people are given a choice over how their relationship is expressed – something a lot of people can get behind. As more and more people support the cause, the demand will be harder to ignore.”

Currently in Britain all couples can marry but only different-sex couples can get a civil partnership. Amongst the European nations that have introduced same-sex marriage, Britain is unique in still reserving one form of union to one type of couple. The Equal Civil Partnerships Campaign is calling for that anomaly to end. The campaign argues that many couples would like the legal protection of marriage but don’t feel the ceremony or institution is right for them.

The campaign is backed by organisations such as The Equality Network, Progressive Women, and Humanist Society Scotland, by campaigners including Owen Jones, Peter Tatchell, and Ellie Mae O’Hagan, and politicians including Green Party Co-Leader and MP Caroline Lucas, the Women’s Equality Party, Tim Loughton MP, and Alistair Carmichael MP.