By Paul Twocock, Director of Campaigns, Policy and Research
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 is being challenged today in the UK Supreme Court by Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan, who would prefer to have a civil partnership, instead of marrying.
Recognising the disparity, the Government have said there are essentially 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.
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 800 couples a year still choose to have a civil partnership instead. 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.
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 has announced they’ll consult on how to resolve the current inequality. I believe – and hope - that once they’ve listened to these voices, the Government will realise the only way forward is to extend civil partnerships to everyone.