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Government to consider abolishing civil partnerships or opening up to straight couples

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  1. Craig Nelson 16 May 2013, 9:16pm

    I am glad there will be a review. This has the advantage of removing the risk of the bill’s opponents pushing this solely in order to derail the bill in a very dishonest manner. The other thing is that there are serious arguments for a) retaining civil partnerships for same sex couples b) extending these to opposite sex couples who wish for them. I would prefer not to wait 5 years though. It could be done a lot sooner – like next year.

    1. Robert in S. Kensington 16 May 2013, 9:27pm

      I agree with you. Loughton especially has been adamant in his condemnation of equal marriage, as bad as his colleague David Burrowes in Committee Hearings. That Loughton and the others tabling the CP amendment voted against equal marriage is proof that this is an extremely dishonest move to sew division and defeat the equal marriage bill. I support Maria Miller’s decision, wise and prudent. There is no urgency to open CPs for hetero couples that I know of although I believe they should be available in the near future short of abolishing them altogether as some other countries have done. The American state of Rhode Island is abolishing civil unions after August 1, 2013.

      Opponents such as the six tabling the CP amendment claimed that there was little demand for equal marriage among their constituents but they’ve never provided any evidence that there was any support for CPs among their straight constituents. This move of theirs is suspect and dishonest.

      1. Abolishing civil partnerships for gay couples would make people like me protest. I understand and sympathise with Peter Tatchell, who thinks that the feminist critique of marriage has many points in its favour. The word marriage, for me personally, carries in its train a cocktail of unfortunate associations. As such, if I had a life partner I would not want to get married; nevertheless, I would want the rights that a married couple I have and hence opt for a civil partnership. The fact that lots of gay people don’t seem to understand this need for a civil partnership, for straight as well as gay people, really baffles me.

        1. Jock S. Trap 17 May 2013, 8:15am

          It depends on how many would use CP’s.

          Marriage means all equal and there would not be a need for second rate services. There is a danger that CP’s could just end up a reminder of a second rate tier system of those able to marry and those not like us at the moment.

          Having said that I support both if both are warranted. If not abolish CP’s and just have people able to marry, full stop.

          1. No apostrophe, please, Jock, when referring to CPs, plural.

            Insert apostrophe to indicate the possessive, as in “A CP’s appeal for many lies in . . . “

        2. Robert in S. Kensington 17 May 2013, 2:00pm

          The problem Luke is that there is no universal standard for CPs, no demand. There are now 15 countries with equal marriage. There are only two with CPs and even Ireland’s isn’t completely identical to the British version. As nice as they maybe for some who don’t want marriage, the reality is, the majority want marriage. I don’t find anything patriarchal in a civil marriage ceremony compared to a religious ceremony where the procreation nonsense comes into play, but even in that, women no longer even have to take a vow to obey their husbands.

    2. What are these serious arguments?

      1. Craig Nelson 17 May 2013, 7:49am

        Forgive me for not retracing all the arguments here (and I’m not saying you have to be swayed by them but I find them convincing).

        I find the argument ‘some people don’t like the connotations of marriage pretty weak as it happens – marriage is being recreated in an egalitarian manner.

        On the other hand the argument for CPs for same sex couples. In the immediate future there is little prospect for same sex marriage availability across the UK. For so long as that is the case CPs should be retained (this weakens a lot if Northern Ireland did have equal marriage). Also there are a lot of religions where they would not allow their members and ministers to marry but would allow them to have CPs.

        Opposite sex CPs. The main reason for me is the sheer number of heterosexual couples who are unprotected (e.g. when one of them dies) that if there was evidence of a real demand for it (i.e. that more couples would end up with recognition) I think that would be a positive outcome.

  2. I think civil partnerships in their current form are pointless. They’re marriages without the name. If we’re going to have a union that’s an alternative to marriage, we should go back to the drawing board and explore the reasons for it so we can build an institution that has a reason to be, not just a hangover from a time when gays were not considered good enough for marriage. French PACS or Dutch registered partnerships are very different from marriage, which is why they have a reason to exist. Peter T keeps saying that he has a problem with the patriarchal origins of marriage. I’m sorry, I don’t think that’s a good enough reason. What about the homophobic origins of civil partnerships? Why is that ok?

    1. Many feminists, gay and straight, don’t want to get married. They want the rights and privileges that are afforded to people who get married. Why shouldn’t they be able to have a contract similar to a marriage but without it being called a marriage?

      1. Feminism should not be about historical definitions and semantics. There are real problems faced by women today that are far more pressing. Some women aren’t even allowed to get a drivers license or walk about without covering their heads, there’s a massive pay gap between men and women and how many women are in the cabinet? But actually you’re right… let’s all throw ourselves in front of a horse over the word ‘marriage’.

      2. Jock S. Trap 17 May 2013, 8:17am

        Just as straight people have a choice not to marry so should we.

        Ideally a second system is not really warranted if marriage is opened to all to choose.

        1. Indeed! Heterosexuals and homosexuals should both be able to choose to marry or not to marry. Loving commitment is loving commitment. There’s no need for the second-rate stepping stone that CPs were and are.

    2. Excellent answer, Val.

    3. Val, I am delighted to have read your point of view. I agree with. And I’m so pleased that at this moment 21 people have given you a thumbs-up!

      The abolition of the second-rate sop and compromise that CPs were is clearly what most of us want.

  3. de Villiers 16 May 2013, 10:30pm

    The government should open the civil partnerships to all. In France, 44% of heterosexual couples choose a civil partnership over a marriage. It is more modern than a marriage.

    1. So modern that it means sweet FA outside of France. I can definitely see the benefits if you don’t plan on leaving France…

    2. You don’t have civil partnerships in France. You have PACS. It’s not the same! PACS is a contract.

    3. de Villiers 17 May 2013, 9:13am

      Choice is good for all. And a PACS in France is treated as a civil partnership or marriage in England. My straight friends living in England who are in a PACS are treated as married.

      It is more modern and supported by the left as a non historical alternative to traditional, patriarchal marriage.

      A PACS is no more a mere contract than a marriage. It is a state recognised form
      of relationship. If you don’t want a civil partnership, don’t have one. But don’t stop straight couples from choosing one when it does not affect you or your rights.

      1. Civil partnerships were specifically created for gay people so they don’t have to give us equal rights, to keep them is a cruel reminder of how society thinks of us a less than them.

        I for one will rejoice if they are completely consigned to the history books.

      2. de Villiers 17 May 2013, 2:19pm

        David, if you do not want a CP then do not have one. But do not deny others the choice of having one when they are open to all.

        That might be your view of CPs but that might not be shared by others who should not be denied choice because of your own views.

      3. “It is more modern & supported by the left as a non historical alternative to traditional, patriarchal marriage”

        There’s NO patriarchal element in a civil wedding. It can be over in 5 minutes if you just want to do the legal bit. It’s not religious, it’s not traditional & it doesn’t mean that the people are marrying are transported into the 18th century & the woman chained to the kitchen sink!

        I know a few straight couples who don’t wish to get married (in either a traditional marriage or a civil one) but NONE of those would have a CP either. There are two reasons for this; 1) they understand that CPs are basically a marriage but not called so just to appease the religious bigots; 2) they don’t want to ‘tie’ themselves to anyone & wish to be independent so wouldn’t have ANY form of civil union no matter what it was called.

        Having two civil systems is stupid, in my opinion. What next? People who don’t like the word ‘marriage’ OR the word ‘partnership’ demanding another kind of union?

        1. de Villiers 18 May 2013, 3:34pm

          That is what you think Iris. But why should you force your view on everyone else. You sound like those who wanted to stop gay marriage on the basis that they knew what was the true definition of marriage.

          What is stupid, Iris, is to think that you are correct when the proof of two systems already works in France – and where we can see that 44% of straight couples choose the equivalent of a civil partnership over a marriage.

          You are very closed minded.

      4. ” My straight friends living in England who are in a PACS are treated as married.”

        Well that must really stick in the throats of people who think “marriage” is a dirty word.

        1. de Villiers 18 May 2013, 3:35pm

          Not really Joss because they consider themselves to be in a PACS even though they are temporarily living in England, which does not have that.

          It is not difficult. Really.

  4. I agree with Luke. Well I actually believe that the government doesn’t have any place recognising the relationships of consenting adults at all and would like to see equality in the form of it being done away with all together.

    Clearly though I’m in a minority. So the important principle for me is if we do have legal unions of some form then there’s equality. I used to think, as it seems most do around here, that simple marriage for everyone was sufficient. All of the historical patriarchal connotations of marriage will surely be bulldozed by allowing marriage between two (or no) women, I thought. But you know, if some people don’t like the overtones of the word marriage, if for some people it’s a bit offensive, then really, what trouble is it for me if they wanna call it a civil union instead? How much trouble will that cause if it’s what people want? It seems a little bit spiteful to deny them that.

    Val’s point about the homophobic origins of civil partnerships is good though.

    1. Some people don’t like the oppressive history of marriage but are A-OK with civil partnerships? Yeah I don’t think I really care…

  5. Chester666666 16 May 2013, 11:13pm

    CP’s should be legally equal to marriage which would be excellent for people who either have or want CP’s, marriage should also be an option for same-sex couples and then there’s a choice for people but equality would be achieved.

  6. Another five years to “debate” and bumble on pretending equality is so difficult to imagine and introduce?
    There is no proper sense of urgency or leadership on this matter of marriage law and equality, enough already it’s way past time to deliver, get on with it..

  7. The marriage law in England and Wales needs root and branch reform ( like was done in Scotland) it is archaic.
    I agree the present bill is not the vehicle for this, but perhaps the proposed review would be an opportunity to do this.
    Civil partnerships needs to continue for the present to cover foreign civil partnerships from foreign jurisdictions that have not yet enacted same-sex civil marriage, including many European countries.
    At some point in the future they should be converted to Civil Marriage, but this depends on the progress to Marriage Equality in other countries.
    I dont agree with Peter Thatchell on this.
    I agree the Tim Loughton proposed ammendment is highly suspicious given him and Burrowes performance in committee.
    This move by Maria Miller seems like a good counter offensive against the bigots mendacity. We shall see on Monday!

  8. There is no point to redundant social institutions. If marriage becomes available to same-sex couples then civil partnerships cease to serve any real purpose other than providing a second quasi-marital status for people with an aversion to the m-word.

    1. de Villiers 17 May 2013, 9:16am

      You can see in France that 44% of straight couples choose a civil partnership or PACS. Just because you cannot see the benefit, you should not take away the rights of others who do see the benefit.

      Opening up civil partnerships does not destroy other institutions.

      1. de Villiers, I think you need to consider people’s motivations, and the fine undercurrents of social identification.

      2. de Villiers 17 May 2013, 2:21pm

        PACS were introduced because the socialist government could not bring a law on gay marriage itself. So by necessity it opened them to all. But PACS have developed into something for all and now nearly half of all French couples seeking a union choose a PACS.

        It is a more modern form of relationship than an historical marriage.,

        1. It’s perception, though, isn’t it.

          It’s largely a difference in name.

          Like different brands of fashionable handbags! :-)

        2. de Villiers 17 May 2013, 5:11pm

          Yes – but why force your perception on someone else who does not agree with it. Let others to make their own choices.

  9. I suspect or hope that by 2019 when CPs are to be reviewed that CPs will be superceded by a real alternative to marriage like the French PACS. Something that would really appeal to people . Something more like a co-hobitation agreement and not CPs.

    It’s a good move by the govt though! Afterall the govt needs to wait 5 yr to see if anybody is still doing CPs at all. 90% of gay couples may be chosing marriage by then and CPs would really be a waste of time to contine.

    1. Robert in S. Kensington 17 May 2013, 1:54pm

      PACS confer far fewer rights than CPs and marriages. Ok if some aren’t concerned about having full protection of rights under the law. Makes no sense though why someone would want to subject themselves to having fewer rights than the majority.

  10. Bishop Timothy Tosspot 17 May 2013, 6:54am

    In 5 years time civilisation and society will have collapsed and the human race will be well on the way to dying out. Most guys will have turned to gay sex and the few heterosexual couples remaining will not be wanting to join the debased and demeaned intitution that ‘Marriage’ will have become.

    So CPs for straights will seem pretty academic

    1. Warning!!!!!

      Thumbs-downers: this is irony!

      Engage sense of humour now!

      1. Some of us liked it! Hehe, the name Bishop Timothy Tosspot was a giveaway.

        The “few heterosexual couples remaining” bit really made me laugh.

  11. It doesn’t make sense as there is already a marriage for heteros so why make civil marriages? when same sex marriage goes through they should also abolish civil marriages for them too. i agree – there is no need and it is unnecessary administrative costs

    1. de Villiers 17 May 2013, 9:19am

      Why remove the right of people to choose just because you do not want one?

      Really – all the gay people on this board sound as reactionary as the bigoted people who wanted to stop gay people from marrying – only here they want to stop straight people from having a completely secular, modern relationship.

      1. Chester666666 17 May 2013, 9:30am

        It does look like that
        I posted an idea where people with CP’s should feel like they aren’t losing out etc and I have 6 thumbs down, I just figured that people would want those with CP’s to feel respected which is what many claim to want from marriage along with equality etc
        It seems like fairness for all is not a goal for many of this site’s readers

      2. Agree with you there. Besides it’s like saying “You don’t need a bungalow when you can have this beautiful mansion.” Well maybe some people prefer bungalows and if they’re on the market for some why not put them on the market for everyone.

        1. Paul Brownsey 17 May 2013, 9:19pm

          No, it;’s like saying that the same house should be available both under the name “bungalow” and under the name “mansion”.

      3. de Villiers, please explain why a civil marriage, in a registry office, for either heterosexuals or homosexuals cannot be a “completely secular and modern” marriage service.

        1. de Villiers 17 May 2013, 2:27pm

          The marriage has an historical significance associated with church, male ownership and the lack of liberty.

          In France, every marriage is a secular marriage. Unlike in England they cannot be performed in a church. The marriage performs itself in the town hall (hôtel) by the mayor.

          Still, the marriage carries the meanings of the traditionalism, the church, the historical nature of it, the historical inequality of the sexes.

          The PACS carries none of this. It is a more modern means of allowing a couple to share the benefits of a recognised relationship without having to submit to the historical and traditional marriage, where the couple then become the husband and wife rather than remaining partners.

          Just because some people do not share this view of the CP or the PACS, they should not force their views on to those who disagree. If you do not want a CP or a PACS then do not have one. But you should not prevent others from choosing this if they feel it better reflects them.

          1. Thanks for your answer.

            I have 2 responses.

            1. In the UK most of us, I think, do not consider getting married at the local registry office, or having a registry office celebrant perform the wedding at a stately home etc., as participating in anything religious, though of course a degree of religion can be introduced if the couple getting married want it.

            2. You laud the PACS because you say it saves us from a situation “where the couple then become the husband and wife rather than remaining partners.” But the majority of us homosexuals here in the UK who wish to share in the institution of marriage want precisely that! We want to be able to say “This is my husband” or “She’s my wife!” We want precisely that equality.

          2. de Villiers 17 May 2013, 5:15pm

            The gay people who want to marry and call themselves husbands or wives should have the right to do so.

            But those who do not want to do so should have the right to have a PACS or civil partnership – as a matter of their choice.

            I am unsure what is the general character of the marriage in England as opposed to France – but it does seem to be more religious than in France. In England I have been to weddings in a church where there has been no separate secular ceremony.

            But in any event – people will have different opinions on the meaning of the marriage as opposed to the civil partnership. Having choice means that people can choose what they consider is right for them.

            One can see in France that PACS are a popular choice for heterosexual couples who consider their lives to be more modern than a marriage would reflect.

          3. de Villiers, I see from your answer that you have attended church weddings in the UK and that from this you appear to think that weddings in general in the UK are religious, but that is not so. A vast number of people avoid church weddings and simply approach the local registry office to arrange a civil marriage ceremony, which they then tailor according to their wishes.

            As for using the handles husband and wife, I think that if people don’t want to use those then fine, they don’t have to, they don’t have to get married. They can just stay unmarried and have sex outside of marriage, if they wish, and refer to the other person as my friend, my partner, my lover, my guy, my gal, my boyfriend or my girlfriend “with whom I do not have a committed relationship”.

            Commitment in relationships has always meant marriage. And that’s what we want. The right to commitment within marriage. Your civil unions, your civil partnerships, your pacs, all were second-rate sops.

          4. de Villiers 18 May 2013, 3:38pm

            Eddy, you have said that they are second rate but they really are not. And 44% of french straight couples who choose a PACS do not consider that they are second rate.

            It is very odd to watch people who criticise religious people for believing in things without evidence then hold these philosophical positions when the contradictory evidence is available to see.

  12. Jock S. Trap 17 May 2013, 8:11am

    Well, can’t say fairer than that, at least all things are being taken into consideration.

  13. What about the question of cost.
    If CPs are abolished and those presently in them have to convert to marriage, who will pay?
    If the government decide to abolish CPs then surely they should take on the responsibility of any costs involved in conversion.

  14. Civil partnerships are a sub standard less than equal half way house,

    Some may feel special with CP’s but that exclusive club is no better than us being banned from marriage. True equality is the goal. Extend marriage to include us.

    1. Indeed!

  15. CPs are just a sham created by the Labour government of the day after they made big promises about gay equality and then chickened out because the established Churches complained. CPs were designed to keep us quiet. They arent equal to marriage they are 2nd rate compromise and should be abolished.
    As for extending them to straight couples all of the straight people I have spoken to about this have looked at me a bit strangely when I’ve asked if they’d consider a CP, with the overwelming response being along the lines of ‘but we’d just get married’.
    In the event we get marriage equality i really cannot see a place for CPs – a civil marriage is surely a civil partnership with better rights, protections and recognition in law.

    1. EsDee, I have just said much the same, below, and am delighted to find you feel the same way.

  16. Paul Halsall 17 May 2013, 12:25pm

    Maria Miller has been better on this subject than her history would suggest.

    I agree straights should have access to civil partnerships, but I am much more interested in marriage equality.

  17. Civil Partnerships were just a stepping stone. They were a second-rate sop offered to us as a compromise. That is their history and that is what CPs are: second-rate compromises.

    In granting homosexual people absolute equality with heterosexual people, homosexual people must be granted the right to marry. And once homosexual people have at last been granted this right, this equality under the law, CPs should be abolished. All existing CPs should be automatically upgraded to civil marriages.

    Surely we want a state in which everyone, whether heterosexual or homosexual chooses marriage or not.

    If heterosexual or homosexual people don’t wish to be married, then let them stay UNMARRIED.

    There never was, and there is not, a need for the second-rate compromise.

    1. Robert in S. Kensington 17 May 2013, 1:48pm

      Personally, I’m not a fan of CPs. That said, I do think had they been opened to heteros when the law was passed in 2004, I think it would have diffused some of the opposition to equal marriage by some on the back benches. There’s no way they could not concede that it would be unfair to give heteros more rights than gays by allowing them access to two unions.

      As far as outrightly abolishing them, we have to consider that there are some gay couples who genuinely prefer them. I think if they are eventually abolished, those who want to retain their CPs instead of marriage should be allowed to exist. I’m not aware of any civil unions for gay couples in 15 countries have been abolished, although I know for a fact that the American state of Rhode Island will do so once the first same-sex marriages take place this summer. I believe France is retaining PACS.

      1. Hi Robert! I do like to keep things tidy! :-)

  18. New Zealand introduced civil partnerships for adult couples in 2004. That law applies to same sex and different sex couples. Recently in 2013 New Zealand brought in marriage equality. The civil union (partnerships) law was a useful stepping stone and we’re OK with having both. Iceland on the other hand turned their cicl partnership law into marriage law, effectively overnight.

    Whatever the choice for the UK, the law should apply equally regardless of gender.

  19. At the implementation of marriage equality, it should be legislated that all civil partnerships will be recognised as marriages. Separate but equal is a farce a lie and a ruse and frankly not an option under any circumstances.

  20. Paul Brownsey 17 May 2013, 8:32pm

    Lizzie, I think you are confusing civil partnerships with civil marriages.

    Civil partnerships are not any sort of marriage. Marriage, whether religious or civil, is a different thing.

  21. Paul Brownsey 17 May 2013, 8:39pm

    There seem to be three main arguments for keeping civil partnerships for UK citizens after we get same-sex marriage.

    One of them seems to rest simply on a confused belief that marriage is essentially religious, so we need civil partnerships as a non-religious alternative. (I was astonished to hear a campaigner for same-sex marriage say at a meeting recently that he wasn’t personally interested in ss-marriage because he wasn’t religious.)
    No; marriage doesn’t belong to the religious. There is civil marriage already available to straight couples and it should be available to gay couples, too.

    Second i think some people have the idea that a marriage involves an expensive, splashy ceremony and a civil partnership is simple alternative. No, you can get married without any splashy ceremony.

    (Continued in another post)

    1. Paul Brownsey 17 May 2013, 8:47pm

      Third, some people seem opposed to marriage because of its historical associations with women as chattels, not allowed to own property, etc. But the marriage laws have *changed*-none of those things now applies. It’s as daft as refusing to go to Oxford or Cambridge because once they excluded women and anyone who wasn’t a member of the CofE; or refusing to send your child to school because once schools used to beat children.

      So you ‘feel uncomfortable’ with the word “marriage”? But the alternative seems to be that the state should provide a whole range of similar institutions with different names just to pander to people’s feelings about words. Perhaps as well as one called “marriage” and one called “civil partnership” we should have one called “love bond” for romantics and one called “doing-God’s-work-in-procreation partnership” for Roman Catholics; and so on.

  22. keepitsimple 18 May 2013, 9:53am

    If we Have Marriage and CPs there will be pressure for other new forms of “pair bonding” to be recognised.
    many opposed equal marriage use the “two elderly sisters wont have this opportunity” argument. (inherit. tax dodge)
    It will become impractical, and ludicrous.
    This should be about what the State, the govt and law, recognise, and having 2 or 3 or more different versions of pair-bonding, each with slightly different rules and rights/obligations will only make work for lawyers.
    If we have both can I marry a man AND have a CP with a woman?
    Or will a CP stop me marrying? will a marriage stop me having a CP?

    Any two unrelated, adult individuals should be able to join together if they wish and have it recognised by law.

    The choice should be join together or don’t.

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