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January 3, 2020

A New Decade Dawns with a New Form of Union for Couples

Martin Loat, Equal Civil Partnerships Campaign Chair

Well, what an amazing journey to full equality it has been!

As Chair of the Equal Civil Partnerships campaign, I can confidently say that, after five years of campaigning, three legal cases and several stages of political manoeuvring, our wishes came true on New Year’s Eve. (Certainly in England and Wales, in Northern Ireland very soon and, hopefully, after a consultation period in Scotland in the coming months.)

It was wonderful to see so many couples from our supporter base show up at register offices up and down England and Wales on the 31 st December and form their civil partnerships their way and on their terms.

At the ECP campaign we think around 300 couples partnered up that day. The Government Equality Office’s own figures estimate that up to 84,000 mixed-sex couples will follow suit and form their own civil partnerships in 2020. What a result!

At the centre of it all, of course, were Rebecca and Charles becoming civil partners at the earliest opportunity at Kensington and Chelsea register office – the very place where they were shown the door and refused permission five years ago for having the nerve to ask for equality and civil union that was available to some but not to them.

Millions saw them (and their two beautiful daughters!) on the news on New Year’s Eve. The media lapped up the story.

Of course, behind the front two, every winning team needs others playing their part in vital positions.

So besides saluting Charles and Rebecca for their fortitude, poise and stamina (and I know it’s been hard at times), I’d like to also thank:
Fellow ECP campaign board member Fiona Millar for her wise counsel.
Tim Loughton, MP for East Worthing and Shoreham, for pushing the law change through Parliament over the past three years (helped by Baroness Hodgson in the Lords).
Our advisors including legal expert Prof Robert Wintemute, veteran campaigner Peter Tatchell and Elsie Owusu (OBE).
Our small, but obviously-effective, campaign team of Ben Rich (political strategist) and Anni Johnson (campaign, website and media manager) who made us punch above our weight time and time again.
Penny Mordaunt MP and Victoria Atkins MP for showing how Government ministers could be supportive.
Matt Hawkins and Clare Phipps who helped with the campaign in its earlier days (and who, like myself and my partner Claire, went to the Isle of Man to get a CP before the position at home was resolved).
The Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust for their financial grants to the campaign fund.
Everyone who donated, joined in our Facebook and Twitter discussion or signed the online petition and helped to create this amazing community.

And I hope I’ve done my bit too.

We at the Equal Civil Partnerships campaign now need to pause for breath and re-group in the coming weeks to decide what – if anything – we do next. After all, how do you follow that? We’ll let you know soon as we can.

Whatever happens next for us, it is true that what we have achieved as a campaigning group with the help of you – our supporters reading this – has permanently re-shaped British civic society for the better. Of that we can be immensely proud.
We’ve made history…and social policy, new law and a modern relationship form that’s right for our times and generations to come.

Thank you for being on the journey with us.

Martin Loat
Equal Civil Partnerships

January 2, 2020

We Made it Happen! Mixed-Sex Civil Partnerships a Reality!

On December 31st hundreds of couples in England and Wales took advantage of their new legal right to register their relationship as a mixed-sex civil partnership.

Among the couples were Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan who returned to Kensington and Chelsea Register Office at 10.30 am on December 31st, the place where they had been turned away five years ago, now finally able to enjoy the legal relationship of their choice.

Following the registration, the couple issued this statement.

Rebecca: We’ve just signed the Register here at Kensington and Chelsea Register Office, and have formed a civil partnership with each other. Finally!

Today, as one decade ends and another dawns, we have become civil partners in law. Our personal wish to form a civil partnership was rooted in our desire to formalise our relationship in a more modern way, focused on equality and mutual respect.

So today is a unique, special and personal moment for us: a moment when we have been able to affirm our love and commitment to one another in the company of our beautiful children, Eden and Ariel, and close friends, and have that love and commitment given legal recognition in the way that best reflects who we are, what we love and the life we value.

Charles: Becca and I have shared much joy, and supported each other through the strains of life, and loss. We have gained so much through the years of trying to become civil partners – new friends, skills – even notoriety – but also confidence and belief in our own agency and capability. Against all odds, we succeeded in a legal battle against the Government and then they did what we asked for all along. Not many people can say that!

But we both know that with everything gained, some things risked being lost, or at least un-spoken. Through this long journey and hard fought battle, our mental health has suffered, our ability to be civil to each other has been tested, and, crucially, we missed out on that important moment to state clearly what we mean to each other – not just what we’ve become in the eyes of others. So we’re grateful to, and wish to thank, everyone who has supported us on this journey so that we could finally do that in private a few moments ago.

Rebecca: Thousands of other people across the country will be forming civil partnerships of their own in the coming decade. What began as a personal issue has become so much more than that. There is now a space for new, more modern possibilities for people to express their love and commitment to one another. The urgent need to reform cohabitation law so that social policy keeps up with the reality of family life in modern Britain has been brought into greater focus. And by ending the unrivalled position of marriage we have helped to create the space for deeper discussions about giving legal recognition to other types of personal and caring relationships, such as those between friends, siblings and co-parents.

There’s no social script to civil partnerships and you can do whatever feels right for you. Some couples will want to celebrate with an elaborate ceremony and big party. But the beauty is that you can form them at minimal cost, without fanfare.

Charlie, I hope that you and I, and Eden and Ariel, enjoy many years of civilly partnered life together! I love you. 

December 9, 2019

Statements Rebecca Steinfeld & Charles Keidan

Credit: Chrysoulla Photography

After giving notice at Hammersmith and Fulham Register Office Charles Keidan and Rebecca Steinfeld gave statements.

Charles said,

It’s five years to the day since Becca and I launched our legal effort to
become civil partners.
A civil partnership is the perfect expression of our values and relationship –
of love for one another and an aspiration to be a partnership of equals. Of
course, we don’t always live up to that aspiration but it sets a tone for our
relationship and our responsibility as parents.
For us, a civil partnership is a blank slate upon which we can inscribe our
own hopes and dreams. There is no social script, no fixed expectations
imposed by others, no huge expense and minimal fanfare.
I’m also happy to be avoiding demands and expectations from others – be
they family, friends and society – about wearing certain clothes, exchanging
vows and rings, throwing an expensive party or signing a certificate or
being part of an institution which still excludes mother’s names.
Now that we’ve successfully given notice of our own civil partnership here
in Hammersmith and Fulham Register Office, we’ll be having a simple
registration 29 days later in the company of our children and two close
friends who will act as witnesses. We will be going back to Chelsea Register
Office on new years eve, the place where it all began when we tried to form
a civil partnership all those years ago. It has been a long – and at times
arduous – journey but now the law has changed. We will enter the new
decade as civil partners.
I’m really happy and proud to have played a role in giving birth to a new
type of legal relationship and social structure – one which I hope will
increase people’s happiness, well-being, choice and security.

Rebecca added

I’m so happy and relieved that we’ve finally been able to give
notice of our intention to form a civil partnership. Five years
ago, when we tried at Chelsea Register Office, we were
turned away because of the ban on mixed-sex civil
partnerships. Since then, we’ve won our legal challenge
against that ban in the Supreme Court, and, together with
the Campaign for Equal Civil Partnerships, changed the law so
that now all couples can form civil partnerships. Our positive
experience here at Hammersmith and Fulham Register Office
today marks the beginning of the end of that long journey.
Now, I’m looking forward to finally becoming civil partners in
law, as well as in life, with my partner Charlie Keidan.
Descriptors are hugely important. It matters that same-sex
couples can marry – something we campaigned for within
our community. But it also matters that feminists like me, in
mixed-sex relationships, can, through civil partnerships,
formalise a relationship of equals, and avoid labels like
“wife,” together with all the gendered expectations that
come with them. Being civil partners reminds us of the need
for mutual respect. And it gives me, especially, leverage
whenever there’s a creeping inequality in our division of
household labour and childcare responsibilities.
So my message to those, like me, who want legal status and
financial protections for their relationship, but within a
modern social institution without the patriarchal baggage of
marriage is: Get hitched like a feminist – form a civil partnership.

December 9, 2019

New Legal Relationship in England and Wales

Credit: Chrysoulla Photography

At just after midnight on Monday 2nd December, a new form of legal relationship came into being in England and Wales. For the first time, mixed-sex couples can choose to register their relationship as a civil partnership as an alternative to marriage, an option that was previously only open to same-sex couples.

The first civil partnership registrations can take place from 31st December 2019 and register offices throughout the country have been kept busy as couples rushed to give notice. One of the couples doing so was Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan whose fight for the right to have a civil partnership, a fight supported throughout by the Equal Civil Partnerships campaign,  led them to a win at the Supreme Court. They were joined by hundreds of couples today during the rest of the week, keen to give notice and be among the first to register their partnership.

After giving notice at Hammersmith and Fulham Register Office at 10.30 am on Monday 2nd December, Rebecca Steinfeld said, “I’m so happy and relieved that we’ve finally been able to give notice of our intention to form a civil partnership. It matters that feminists like me, in mixed-sex relationships, can through civil partnerships, formalise a relationship of equals.”

Charles Keidan added, “I’m really happy and proud to have played a role in giving birth to a new type of legal relationship and social structure – one which I hope will increase people’s happiness, well-being, choice and security.  A civil partnership is the perfect expression of our values and relationship.”

Many other couples will have gone to bed on Sunday 1st December cohabiting and woken up to find themselves civil partners.  Civil partnership equivalents entered into outside the United Kingdom automatically became a legal relationship at 00.01am on Monday 2nd December. Martin Loat, chair of the Equal Civil Partnerships campaign, who is, in fact in this position having registered his partnership with Claire Beale in the Isle of Man three years ago, said, “This is a truly momentous day. We are the very beginning of a totally new social institute and it’s exciting to be one of the first to enjoy this. We know from our supporters that this is a day that has been longed for and we look forward to seeing what will happen from now on with it.”

November 6, 2019

ECP Bar Brooch Available from Dunn Jewellery

Civil Partnership Bar Brooch available https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/736008340/equal-civil-partnerships-campaign-bar

If you are looking for something special to commemorate a civil partnership, these specially designed bar brooches, endorsed by the Equal Civil Partnerships campaign, might be the perfect item. The high quality hand-crafted brooches in sterling silver and copper can be bought from Dunn Jewellery via Etsy at https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/736008340/equal-civil-partnerships-campaign-bar

The ECP campaign has worked with custom jeweller, Paul Dunn of Dunn Jewellery, to create a simple design specific to civil partnerships which we hope people will enjoy. The brooches are a perfect additional touch for the registration itself but can equally be worn every-day.  Although designed to be engraved Civil Partner – working for both mixed and same-sex partnerships and gender neutral, the engraving can be personalised or left off.

To see and purchase the design go to https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/736008340/equal-civil-partnerships-campaign-bar

ECP campaign’s role has been purely advisory and the campaign has no financial affiliation with Dunn Jewellery nor does it receive any benefit or profit from the sale of the brooches. The campaign is also currently working with an enamel badge maker to provide an additional or alternative low-cost commemorative symbol.

November 6, 2019

Happy New Year for Civil Partnerships

Mixed-sex couples will finally be able to register civil partnerships in England and Wales starting from New Year’s Eve 2019 after secondary legislation was read and approved in the House of Lords on 5th November 2019.  Couples will be able to give notice from 2nd December 2019 and the first civil partnerships can be registered on 31st December after the usual 28 days notice.

During the debate, Baroness Susan Williams explained that the bill was being passed without inclusion of conversion to/from marriage as that was a longer task following the consultation and there was a priority to ensure mixed-sex civil partnerships could happen by the end of 2019. She reassured the house that it was a priority for 2020.

Baroness Williams further confirmed that a bill to create opposite-sex civil partnerships was currently passing through the Scottish parliament. Until this bill has passed, civil partnerships formed in England and Wales will be treated as marriages in Scotland for legal and financial purposes. Afterwards,  they will be recognised as civil partnerships.

In good news for Northern Ireland, Baroness Williams confirmed that both opposite-sex and same-sex civil partnerships will be able to be formed from 13 January 2020.

Martin Loat, Chair of the campaign, commented, “It has been a long journey through both the courts and parliament to get to this point. I’d like to pay tribute to everyone who has been involved in the campaign – especially Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan whose eventual win at the Supreme Court led us to this place, Tim Loughton MP who tenaciously took this on as a Private Members Bill, Baroness Fiona Hodgson who led the Bill through the Lords and of course all the supporters whose own testimonies have played a real role in the campaign. We are all delighted and relieved that the start date of 31st December can be adhered to.”

ECP campaign was very grateful for the kind and generous words spoken by members of the House during the debate.

In the words of Lord Cashman

“Let us get this through and allow those who may wish to take this wonderful opportunity—perhaps on 31 December or even 1 January—the luxury to say that in a country where we are equal, they celebrate the person they love regardless of the gender of that person.”

The full debate can be read here https://hansard.parliament.uk/lords/2019-11-05/debates/3184F27B-407A-47E3-A4B8-F865CE5FF82A/CivilPartnership(Opposite-SexCouples)Regulations2019

October 31, 2019

Mixed-sex CPs can take place from 31st December

Victoria Atkins, Minister at the Home Office, has today confirmed, (31st October 2019), that mixed-sex civil partnerships will be able to take place in England and Wales by the end of the year.

“Our intention is to commence the regulations on 2nd December which would enable the first opposite-sex civil partnership ceremonies to take place on 31st December, given the usual 28 days notice period.”

Ms Atkins was speaking in the House of Commons during the reading and unanimous approval of the secondary regulations needed for the completion of the Bill. The final reading of the regulations will be heard in the House of Lords in the next few days.

During the debate, Ms Atkins confirmed that notice will be able to be given from 2nd December and in most circumstances, mixed-sex registrations can take place from 31st December. In cases of exceptional circumstances, such as terminal illness, the notice period may be able to be shortened or waived.

Ms Atkins further confirmed that civil partnerships already registered outside England and Wales, for example the Isle of Man, will automatically be recognised from 2nd December 2019. A list of countries and types of civil partnership can be found here http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukdsi/2019/9780111190784/schedule/1

Finally Ms Atkins confirmed that the General Register Office will be in contact with all register offices in England and Wales and make them aware of the new regulations and dates.

October 21, 2019

One step closer – regulations laid in Parliament

The Government has today confirmed its intention to introduce the law change we want on 2 December 2019. If this happens – and given the requirement to give 28 days’ notice for a civil partnership – this means that mixed-sex couples will be allowed to form civil partnerships from 31 December, as the relevant Act decrees. 

However, these are uncertain times in Parliament and there is a risk of delay. 

We have been warned that, should there be an General Election, the parliamentary time given to the Bill might be delayed. Unfortunately this is out of our – and the Government Equality Office’s – hands. 

If there is a General Election,  the regulations would come into force on the day after the day they are made (i.e. signed by the Minister following the debates). It is possible that could be after 2 Dec, meaning those giving 28 days notice immediately will have to wait until early Jan for their Civil Partnership.

Martin Loat, Chair of the ECP campaign said, “We are pleased and relieved to have this information from the Government, having waited since the Bill received Royal Assent in March. While we obviously can’t do anything about the timing of a General Election, we would be disappointed if it meant a delay in people being able to give notice for their civil partnership. But this could happen. 

Our current advice for couples wanting to book an early civil partnership would be to be aware of the 28 day gap between the law coming in and the ability to actually make a Civil Partnership. 

Some will want to await the final date to avoid later disappointment. 

We are aware that some people have already booked for 31stDecember or early in January and our hopes are with you that all regulations will be completed by 2 Dec to allow that to happen.”

July 25, 2019

Standardise Register Office Fees

At ECP we have become aware that the costs for registering a civil partnership vary tremendously from council to council.

We understand that outside venues and more elaborate ceremonies will cause variations in price but we’ve found a basic simple witnessed registration can cost from £46 – the required price set by Government – to a far higher price at the will of the individual register office.

We’ve also found that there are usually restrictions on when a simple registration service can take place with the most restrictive only allowing them on Monday mornings – and the number of guests present – with the most restrictive only allowing two witnesses.

We want everyone to be able to safeguard their relationship and enjoy the protections that civil partnerships will bring to mixed-sex couples and want no-one to be put off registering their relationship through cost or time constraints or be forced to not include vital friends or family. We also want couples to enjoy the same freedom of choice throughout the country and not pay a higher price depending on their postcode.

We ask register offices to commit to our three point pledge for both mixed and same sex civil partnerships for the simple legal registration ceremony

  • Standard fixed price £46
  • Available to book at this price Mon-Fri 9-5pm
  • Up to 8 guests including witnesses – in addition to the couple themselves
July 10, 2019

Statement from Government on mixed-sex CPs next steps

The campaign has received a statement from the Government department working on the implementation of mixed-sex civil partnerships.

“The government has today published a paper entitled Implementing Opposite-Sex Civil Partnerships: Next Steps setting out how it intends to implement opposite-sex civil partnerships by the end of this year. This includes important issues such as parental responsibility and parenthood, financial benefits and entitlements and the protections the government intends to put in place for religious organisations in relation to civil partnerships. The government’s approach is, wherever appropriate, to extend existing rights that apply to same-sex civil partners or opposite-sex married couples to opposite-sex civil partners. This document is not, therefore, a formal consultation.

The issue on which the government is keen to hear views is conversion into and out of marriage. The government is seeking views on proposals to introduce a new right for opposite-sex couples to convert from a marriage to a civil partnership for a limited period of time, before bringing this (and the existing right for same-sex couples to convert from a civil partnership to marriage) to an end. The consultation on conversion rights, Civil Partnerships: The Future of Conversion Rights, has also been published today and runs until 20 August.

The combined policy paper and consultation can be found here https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/civil-partnerships-next-steps-and-consultation-on-conversion

The government is not able to commit to a date for implementation of opposite-sex civil partnerships at this stage. The changes to the law extending civil partnerships and the associated rights and benefits to opposite-sex civil partners will be set out in regulations which are being prepared in parallel. These regulations will need to be debated in both Houses of Parliament before they can come into force. The government has, however, restated its aim that opposite-sex couples will be able to both give notice and register their civil partnerships before the end of the year.  Any changes on conversion rights are likely to follow at a later date. This is to allow the government time to analyse the responses to the consultation and to permit the General Register Office to make the necessary changes to its processes and systems.