Abolishing civil partnerships is not an option | Stonewall
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Abolishing civil partnerships is not an option

This morning the Supreme Court has ruled that the inequality that prevents different-sex couples having a civil partnership as well as same-sex couples is not compatible with equality laws.

Since 2014, same-sex couples have had the choice of marrying or entering a civil partnership - while the only option available to different-sex couples has been to marry.

This inequality was challenged by Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan, who would prefer to have a civil partnership, instead of marrying.

Though the judgment cannot force the Government to act immediately, it does make clear that discrimination is taking place. The Government has already publicly acknowledged the disparity. Last month they said there are two options to resolve it – extend civil partnerships to all or abolish the institution altogether. 

Stonewall believes the only option open to the Government is to extend civil partnerships to everyone.

We were pleased to hear assurances from the Minister for Women and Equalities, Rt Hon Penny Mordaunt MP, last month, that she believes that civil partnerships are an important institution, which she does not intend to abolish.

The introduction of Civil Partnerships in 2005 was a huge milestone on the road to LGBT equality. For the first time, same-sex couples could have their relationships legally recognised and secure the same benefits as married couples of different-sexes.

Same-sex couples who’d been together for 20, 30 or 40 years but never been able to have their relationship recognised, were finally acknowledged legally. Every civil partnership ceremony that has taken place since has been joyous for each couple, their friends and families.

In 2007, when I had my civil partnership ceremony, I’d been with my partner for nine years. It was important to me that our relationship was recognised and held on the same footing as every other. But I hadn’t been prepared for the impact the ceremony would have on me. That day was a milestone in our lives. The commitment I made to my partner came from deep inside me – small wonder I burst into tears as we said our vows to each other.

It’s a feeling everyone who has made that commitment, through a civil partnership or a marriage, will recognise and share.

That’s why it’s so important that civil partnerships aren’t abolished.

Although most same-sex couples choose to marry now, around 900 couples a year still choose to have a civil partnership instead, around 15% of legal unions between same-sex couples (latest stats from 2014 show 4850 same-sex marriages in the year they were first introduced).

And while many have converted their civil partnership to a marriage, many thousands of same-sex couples haven’t - and don’t want to. They want to maintain the integrity of the day they made their commitment to each other in a civil partnership.

It’s not right for any government to take that away, and we’re pleased that the Minister for Women and Equalities, Rt Hon Penny Mordaunt MP, agrees.

Abolition would imply that civil partnerships are now less valued than a marriage and somehow irrelevant. Nothing could be further from the truth for those couples already in them.

The Government announced plans to consult on how to resolve the current inequality last month. I believe – and hope - that once they’ve listened to these voices, they will confirm that the only fair way forward is to extend civil partnerships to everyone.