Why does it matter?
There are a range of reasons why we believe civil partnerships should be available to all couples, regardless of sex or sexual orientation.
It is a core principle of democracy that all people should be equal before the law. The current ban on different-sex couples accessing civil partnerships is at odds with this principle, and contravenes the UK’s main equality and human rights law. The ban must be lifted to ensure the principle of ‘equality before the law’ is upheld.
A modern alternative to marriage
Many people would like to have their partnerships legally recognised, but want to avoid the social expectations, pressures and traditions surrounding marriage and have the choice to enter into a more modern form of legal union.
A recent government consultation found that 20% of different-sex, unmarried people would prefer to form a civil partnership than marry or live together – current laws that prohibit this are outdated, unjust and discriminatory.
The family factor
In the UK today there are around 2.9 million different-sex couples that live together without being married, 39% of whom have dependent children. This number has doubled in the last 15 years according to official figures. Some of these couples don’t want to make a legal commitment, some are unaware of their lack of rights if they don’t, and others chose not to marry because they object to the history and trappings of the institution.
Extending the right to civil partnerships to different-sex couples would help this latter group access greater legal protections for their family. Whilst it would not address the inequalities faced by families who do not choose legal union, or those that are unaware of their lack of rights if they don’t, it would be an important step in the right direction to giving all families full choice and protection under the law.
The feminism factor
Many of those who support equality between women and men view marriage as a sexist institution – typified by traditions such as the father ‘giving the bride away’ to the husband, or the bride playing the role of ‘unspoiled’ virgin though the wearing of white. Whilst some people choose to do away with such symbolism, many other different-sex couples seeking legal union would prefer to drop the sexist associations of marriage entirely and form a civil partnership instead.
For LGBT+ equality
Limiting civil partnerships to same-sex couples risks reinforcing the idea that marriage is, first and foremost, a heterosexual institution. Maintaining a separate same-sex only regime implies that there is something different or wrong about same-sex relationships. If they are equal, it is logical that both regimes should be open to all regardless of sex or sexual orientation.