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October 26, 2018

First Opposite-Sex Civil Partnerships set for Autumn 2019

 

A Private Members Bill by Conservative MP for East Worthing and Shoreham, Tim Loughton, which would ultimately extend civil partnerships to all, has completed its passage through the House of Commons and will now be considered by Peers.

An amendment to his own Bill by Mr Loughton, which was also carried, will now require the Government to “make regulations to bring about equality between same-sex couples and other couples” within six months of it becoming law.  This means that civil partnerships are set to be extended to all by Autumn 2019.

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

“We welcome the progress of the Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths (Registration etc) Bill today.  We congratulate and thank Tim Loughton MP for his championing of equal civil partnerships and his determination to hold the Government’s “feet to the fire”.   There can be no further excuse to keep couples waiting and I call on the Government now to ensure that this Bill becomes law as quickly as possible.”

Charles Keidan and Rebecca Steinfeld, the couple who successfully challenged the Government in the Supreme Court in June, added:

“Many people will be surprised that we still waiting for the opportunity to have our civil partnership five months after the Supreme Court ruled in our favour and a month after the Prime Minister made a personal commitment to open up civil partnerships to all.   Now the Government has a mechanism and timeline to legislate, so we – and the millions of other couples in our situation – can celebrate.”

The Bill is now expected to go to the House of Lords in the next couple of months and to become law in the Spring, after which the Government will have six months to draw up the detailed regulations for the introduction of civil partnerships for opposite-sex couples.

 

October 22, 2018

Amendment to Tim Loughton Bill – Statement from Chair, Martin Loat

Today (22 October), Tim Loughton, MP, announced an amendment to his own Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths (Registration) Bill which has its Report stage of its passage through the Commons on Friday, 26 October.

In effect, the amendment states that the Government will make regulations to bring about equality of civil partnerships and that this must take place within six months of the Bill being passed. This means that his Bill – if passed through Parliament – will lead to mixed-sex couples being able to have a civil partnership before the end of 2019.

This comes less than a month after Prime Minister Theresa May announced that the Government supported opening up CPs to all, but she gave no time frame.

I know that many supporters of equal civil partnerships would like the law changed sooner (as I do). But the realities of Parliamentary procedure, aligning various ministries and the distractions of Brexit, mean that putting a six-month cap on it after the Bill becomes law (hopefully in Spring 2019) is the most pragmatic way to avoid any wriggling out with excuses about “consultations and procedure”.

If he can steer his amendment and Bill through, Tim should be congratulated for being the one to hold the Government to a definite time frame for its own pronouncements.

We want to encourage all our supporters to keep up the fight. Please send a postcard, email (you can find your MP’s email on www.writetothem.com),tweet your MP (adding handle @EqualCPs and hashtag #equalcivilpartnerships)  or telephone them at their office to tell them you want them to attend the debate on Friday morning and to support this amendment.

Many thanks Tim Loughton and good luck from us all at the Campaign!

Martin Loat,

Chair, Equal Civil Partnerships Campaign

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.”

August 17, 2018

Office of National Statistics – Civil Partnerships in 2017

The ONS have published the statistics on same sex civil partnersips for 2017 with the key finding that the number of people choosing a civil partnership rose by 2% over the previous year. This is the second annual increase since the introduction of same sex marriage in 2013.

ONS: Civil Partnerships in England and Wales 2017

We are delighted for all the couples who have chosen to celebrate and formalise their life together in this way. It is also hugely relevant to our cause as one of the issues to be looked at in the Command Paper issued by the Government in May is the ongoing take-up of civil partnerships amongst same sex couples.

Martin Loat, Chair of the Equal Civil Partnerships Campaign Group, states

These figures show a clear ongoing demand for civil partnerships, despite same sex couples being able to choose the option of marriage. A civil partnership is the real preference for many couples – both same and different sex – who want to formalise their relationship in law.

July 19, 2018

Statement from ECP Chair, Martin Loat – Private Members Bill in Committee.

On Wednesday July 18th, Tim Loughton, MP, took his Private Members Bill through the committee stage of its passing. ECP Chair, Martin Loat, has provided a statement on what happened and what our next steps are.

Government commits to shorten its (unnecessary) research into civil partnerships.
Minister responds to pressure following Supreme Court ruling.
We’re making progress in our campaign to get the Government to change the law, following the Supreme Court ruling that it should (two different things !)
Three weeks after the Supreme Court ruled that it’s illegal for the Government not to allow civil partnerships for all couples, the Government has made its first move.
MP Tim Loughton’s private members bill that (among other things) seeks to allow civil partnerships for all, reached the “committee stage” in its passage through Parliament this week. In this meeting, Victoria Atkins, the  Government minister responding, publicly stated for the first time that her boss, Penny Mordaunt, the Minister for Women and Equalities, has instructed that government research into demand for and attitudes into civil partnerships be concluded “by the end of this year”.
This is an improvement on the ridiculous three-year process they had announced when Tim’s bill was last aired in Parliament.
The ECP campaign would have liked to see this unnecessary and face-saving “research and consultation” process scrapped altogether and the law changed immediately. This is because opening up CPs to all is the only realistic option for achieving equality, so not much more debate is needed!
But we have to be pragmatic and realise that ministers don’t like to be seen making U-turns! And Tim Loughton’s bill is in progress and – for now at least – probably the best practical vehicle to get the law change that we want through Parliament.
All eyes will now be on the next  “Report stage” of the Bill  (probably on 26 October)
by which time we expect the Government to firm up its intentions on when and how, with its own research largely or completely concluded. This will enable certain amendments to be made to the Bill to facilitate a law change (as opposed to merely a consultation).
Over the summer your ECP campaign team will be keeping the pressure up and seeking a face to face meeting with Penny Mordaunt MP. We will make clear how much support there is for equal civil partnerships and that the Government is on “borrowed time” now that the Supreme Court has ruled so strongly.
But we will demand positive action and intent after the summer break and in the run up to 26 October. We may well be asking supporters to get involved further in the campaign come the Autumn.
And, of course, you can still send a postcard to Penny Mordaunt yourself to let her know that you are glad the research time will be shorter but it is still not necessary as equality for all is the only option.
Martin Loat
Chair, Equal Civil Partnerships campaign 

 

July 4, 2018

Letter to Penny Mordaunt, MP, Minister for Women and Equalities

On June 27th, after the Supreme Court Judgment, Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan delivered a letter to Penny Mordaunt MP at the Department for International Development to be read in her capacity as Minister for Women and Equalities.

This is the text of the letter.

Re: After today’s Supreme Court ruling, open civil partnerships to all now

Dear Ms. Mordaunt,

On 1st October 2014, we walked into Chelsea Register office to form a civil partnership. But we were turned away because, we were told, civil partnerships were not for opposite-sex couples.

Four years on, we continue to build our relationship as a partnership of equals, and try to set the best example for our two small children, Eden and Ariel. Legal protection and financial security have become more important now that we have a family of our own. But we continue to be denied these protections, along with over three million other cohabiting couples – the fastest growing family type in the UK.

We know that you and the Government share our commitment to families and equality. So, it is lamentable that we have been forced to go all the way to the Supreme Court simply to make sure that the same rights are available to all. You can and must put this right.

The Government has already acknowledged that the current situation is unequal, unfair and unsustainable. Of the two options available to achieve equality – extension and abolition – you yourself have publicly assured Stonewall that abolition is not an option.

So, we urge you to seize the opportunity to turn defeat into victory: Declare today that you will legislate within this Parliamentary session to extend civil partnerships to all. You can use the “fast-track amendment procedure” in Article 10 to take remedial action or you can back Tim Loughton’s original Private Members Bill.

You can be the minister that completes the circle of full relationship equality. Please seize this historic opportunity.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Rebecca Steinfeld and Mr Charles Keidan

July 4, 2018

Statements outside Supreme Court 27 June 2018

After the landmark victory at the Supreme Court on 27 June 2018, both Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan made statements to the waiting press and well-wishers.

Rebecca Steinfeld

Well, we have won our legal battle!

The highest court in the land has stated, unequivocally and unanimously – five, nil – that there is no, and never has been any, justification for what they call a ‘manifest inequality of treatment.’

Thank you to our formidable legal team: our solicitor Louise Whitfield of Deighton Pierce Glynn, and Karon Monaghan and Sarah Hannett of Matrix Chambers. This resounding victory would not have been possible without them.

Today, we are a step closer to opening civil partnerships to all, a measure that would be fair, popular and good for families and children across

We are elated, but to get this far, Charlie and I have had to go toe-to-toe with the Government over four long years, confronting four Equalities Ministers across three courts. They have wasted taxpayers’ money to defend and maintain a blatant inequality. So please forgive us if today, alongside the satisfaction we feel, we also feel a degree of sorrow and frustration at the delays, obstruction and official resistance we’ve experienced.

Charles Keidan

People are already suffering because of the Government’s delays.

Joanna and Steve are a different-sex couple with three grown up children. Like us, they want to formalise their relationship in a civil partnership. But Steve has terminal cancer, so time is running out.

Today’s Declaration of Incompatibility from the Supreme Court means that the Government is legally bound to end the difference in treatment between same-sex and different-sex couples’ access to civil partnerships, most likely by extending them to all or by abolishing them.

Human rights law is meant to work progressively, giving everyone the same advantages, not the same disadvantages. The Minister for Women and Equalities, Penny Mordaunt MP, has already publicly assured the UK’s leading LGBT organisation, Stonewall, that civil partnerships will be retained for same-sex couples.

Therefore, there is only one option: to extend civil partnerships to all.

For the sake of Joanna and Steve, and thousands of other couples across the country, we hope that the Government will act with urgency.

It is within their power – and indeed it is their duty – to do so.

So we say to Ms. Mordaunt: Please use the “fast-track amendment procedure” in Article 10 to take remedial action now or back Tim Loughton’s original Private Members Bill.

You can be the minister that completes the circle of full relationship equality. Please seize this historic opportunity.

Rebecca Steinfeld

We wouldn’t be in the position we are today without the encouragement and support we’ve received from people across the UK.

Gathered here are a small number of the 132,000 of you who have signed our Change.org petition. We are so happy to be standing alongside you. Thank you for sharing with us your personal stories. They have kept us going through the long journey to this resounding victory.

Special thanks go to the campaign steering group who have stuck together and been with us all the way through the highs and lows.

Today we’ve won in court and we are celebrating this major and hopefully defining milestone! But the fight for civil partnerships doesn’t end here. It can and must go on unless and until civil partnerships are extended to all couples. So please continue to back the campaign for Equal Civil Partnerships on GoFundMe.

The law is on our side. Now the Government must join us in doing the right thing. Open civil partnerships to all.

Thank you for your support.

June 27, 2018

Win at the Supreme Court!

The Supreme Court has declared the Government’s refusal to allow opposite-sex civil partnerships ‘incompatible’ with human rights law!

The Government will now have to end the unequal situation whereby same-sex couples can chose between marriage and civil partnerships but opposite-sex couples only have access to marriage.  Penny Mordaunt MP, the Equalities Minister, has previously publicly ruled out the option of abolishing same-sex civil partnerships, leaving the Government with only one option: extending civil partnerships to all.

Charles and Rebecca have expressed their relief and elation at this resounding victory in their four-year legal battle. Thanking over 132,000 supporters who have signed a Change.org petition in support of their case, they urged the Government to use the fastest possible legislative route to make civil partnerships available to all.  They say:

“We have fought this battle not only on our own behalf but for 3.3 million unmarried couples in England and Wales. Many want legal recognition and financial protection, but cannot have it because they’re not married and because the choice of a civil partnership is not open to them. The law needs to catch up with the reality of family life in Britain in 2018.

People are already suffering because of the Government’s delays. Joanna and Steve from Yorkshire are an opposite-sex couple with three grown up children. Like us, they want to formalise their relationship in a civil partnership. But Steve has terminal cancer, so time is running out. For the sake of Joanna and Steve, and thousands of other couples across the country, we hope that the Government will act with urgency.

Today we’ve won in court, but the fight for civil partnerships doesn’t end here. It can and must go on unless and until civil partnerships are extended to all couples. The law is on our side. Now the Government must join us in doing the right thing: open civil partnerships to all.

We have therefore delivered a letter to the Equalities Minister, Penny Mordaunt MP, urging her to seize victory from the jaws of defeat by announcing today that the Government will legislate within this Parliamentary session to extend civil partnerships to all.”

Martin Loat, chair of the Equal Civil Partnerships campaign, said:

“Our campaign group came together to support Rebecca and Charles four years ago, but has grown into a force that provides a voice on this important issue for thousands of supporters nationwide. We welcome today’s ruling and will be keeping up the pressure for a fast change to equalise the law. The Government has had long enough, the time to act is now.”

The judgment has been welcomed by the couple’s solicitor, Louise Whitfield, of Deighton Pierce Glynn and Tim Loughton MP, who is bringing a private members bill to extend civil partnerships to all and is one vehicle that the Government could use to meet the Court’s demand.

June 24, 2018

Supreme Court to rule on opening Civil Partnerships to all – Wednesday 27th June

The Judgment will be read by three Supreme Court justices at 9.45am on Wednesday 27th June in Courtroom one.

Around 10am, Charles and Rebecca will deliver their response to the media and supporters outside the Court, together with their solicitor, Louise Whitfield of Deighton Pierce Glynn and Tim Loughton MP, who is bringing a private members bill to end the current inequality.

They will then march to the office of Penny Mordaunt MP, the Equalities Minister, at the Department for International Development on 22 Whitehall, to deliver a letter calling on the Government to act as a matter of urgency.

Commenting ahead of the judgment, Charles and Rebecca say:

“We believe our legal team has made an overwhelming argument but whatever the outcome on all the substantive issues the Government has already conceded that the current inequality cannot continue.”

Martin Loat, Chair of the Equal Civil Partnerships Group, is clear that there is only one realistic solution. He comments:

“The Secretary of State has publicly reassured Stonewall that she will not abolish civil partnerships for same sex couples. As a result, there is only one possible way forward – giving everyone the right to a civil partnership – and we urge the Government to seize this opportunity to announce it will end this injustice now.”