The Civil Partnership Act 2004 was introduced to provide a legal mechanism to recognise same-sex relationships and this same legislation specifically prohibited opposite-sex couples from entering into civil partnerships.
Since 2013 same-sex couples have been able to marry. The two systems of marriage and civil partnership have continued side by side for same-sex couples, whilst opposite-sex couples have only had the option of marriage.
In July the government announced that civil partnerships will be available for opposite-sex couples, from 1st January 2020, meaning that all couples now have the option of marrying or entering into a civil partnership.
Some view civil partnerships as obsolete now that equal marriage is available and have questioned the need for the high profile campaign for equal civil partnership. So why are some opposite-sex couples booking civil partnerships for the new year?
- Religious connotations
The concept of marriage has roots in religion, with most of the major world religions seeing it as integral to the family unit. Civil partnerships can be a way to avoid religious connotations that have seeped into marriage traditions over time.
Anecdotally, the appeal of opposite-sex civil partnership seems to be driven by a desire for true equality in a relationship. Many wedding traditions that may seem innocuous now have ancient roots in a patriarchal and feudal society, where women were considered chattels and, quite literally, ‘given away’ to her new husband like a piece of property. Even the terms husband and wife, for some, evoke visions of housewives and outdated gender-based roles.
- Lack of expectation
Some people are drawn by the lack of tradition attached to civil partnerships, given they are a relatively new development in the law. By starting with a clean slate and lack of expectation of traditions couples can design their special day, and life, in a way that suits them.
Are civil partnerships and marriage equal in the eyes of the law?
Whilst there are procedural differences in the two different processes, on the face of it, civil partnerships and marriage offer largely the same legal recognition and protections for couples in the UK.
However, it is of note that whilst most other countries in the world recognise a UK marriage, the same cannot be said of civil partnerships. If you are thinking of living or working abroad make sure you do your research or you could find that you cannot rely on the rights and protections of your civil partnership when you need it most.
Our specialist Family Team are experts in pre-nuptial and post-nuptial agreements as well as Civil Partnership dissolution. Please contact us to discuss your unique circumstances.