December 4, 2020
Mixed-sex civil partnerships want to do things differently. That’s the key message behind our survey, asking mixed-sex couples to rate their experience of civil partnership registrations over the last year. Almost 77% of respondents chose the simple statutory ‘no frills’ registration in a working office with no vows and only the two witnesses present. This represents a huge shift change from both marriage and same-sex civil partnership.
Whilst all register offices must offer the simple option for registration, it has been a minority option for the existing legal relationships of marriage and same-sex civil partnerships. A further 14% of respondents to the survey complain that it is offered so infrequently or at such unfriendly times, that they were not able to take advantage of it; This correlates to the 14% of respondents who told us that they were not able to have the simple registration that they wanted.
The survey also highlighted the need for greater understanding of civil partnerships from registrars and register office staff. A regular complaint was terminology – couples objected to being called bride and groom with the registration referred to as a wedding. Complaints were also received about both websites and communications not being updated to include mixed-sex civil partnerships and no promotion of the simple registration on websites.
The news for register offices is not all bad. A total of 143 individual register offices were cited in the responses and scored across 5 different areas. 33 of these received perfect scores and over 100 received an average of 80% or above, indicating that on the whole, register offices have adapted well to the new legal relationship.
A further ground for celebration is the lengths to which registrars have gone to make registrations special even under restrictions. Respondents told us of emergency civil partnerships carried out prior to lockdown, guests face-timing in and windows being opened to allow guests outside to listen.
ECP campaign director, Fiona Millar, said “After so many years of campaigning, we are delighted that so many couples have had the registration they want. There is still work to be done, however. Our main ask would be for register offices to understand that the simple registration is going to be ever more popular and to offer greater flexibility and choice of times around it.”