PinkNews.co.uk has learnt that the government intends to review the future of civil partnerships exactly five years from the point when the same-sex marriage bill comes into law, with Culture Secretary Maria Miller saying a “proper review will allow us to look at the issues”.
The review has been tabled by the government as an amendment to the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, which will reach its report stage in the House of Commons next week.
A spokesperson at the Department for Culture, Media & Sport confirmed to PinkNews.co.uk on Thursday evening that a review on civil partnerships would take place exactly five years from the point when the same-sex marriage bill comes into law for England and Wales.
Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell has repeatedly called for the coalition’s equal marriage plans to include civil partnerships for heterosexuals.
It was after she told the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights: “We don’t feel there is either a necessity or a requirement to open up civil partnerships to heterosexual couples because there is no deficit there – there is no lack of an ability to be able to formalise a relationship in a legal way.
“It is already there for heterosexual couples. It’s called marriage.”
In response, Mr Tatchell said: “This is a hugely disappointing decision by the government. But I am hopeful that the amendment to open up civil partnerships to heterosexual couples will be carried by MPs next week.”
In a statement on Thursday evening Maria Miller said: “The Equal Marriage Bill is about extending marriage to same-sex couples. Questions have been raised about whether we should also extend civil partnerships to opposite-sex couples. There are strong views on both sides of this debate, and we have listened to those views. We are therefore offering the House the opportunity to have a review of this area, rather than legislating now without the required evidence.”
The Department for Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) told PinkNews.co.uk that the review was needed in order to assess the potential impact of the bill on civil partnerships.
It is possible the arrival of same-sex marriage in England and Wales could mean gay couples eventually no longer opt for civil partnerships.
A DCMS spokesperson said: “Civil partnerships were created for a very specific reason – to give same-sex couples access to legal rights at a time when society was not ready to give them access to marriage.
“Now that the time is right to extend marriage to same-sex couples, it is also right that we should consider the future of civil partnerships. There are strong views on both sides of this debate, and we have listened to those views. A proper review will allow us to look at the issues in a considered and thorough way, giving full consideration to the implications of any changes.”
Three Tory MPs – Tim Loughton, Charlotte Leslie and Rob Wilson – are pushing for civil partnerships to be an option for heterosexual couples in an amendment as part of next week’s third reading of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill.