A senior Government source has told PinkNews.co.uk that the Equalities Minister Maria Miller is “relaxed” on an immediate review on opposite sex civil partnerships.
Labour MPs have been threatening to vote in favour of Conservative MP Tim Loughton’s amendment to the Marriage (Same sex couples) Bill that would immediate introduce opposite sex civil partnerships. It is supported by many Conservative MPs who oppose same-sex marriage as it is believed that it could “wreck” the progress of the bill in the House of Lords.
Mrs Miller had already offered to hold a review of civil partnerships within five years. The review could consider whether to allow opposite sex couples to hold civil partnerships or ‘grandfather’ them, in other words stopping any further same-sex civil partnerships to be entered into while allowing existing civil partnerships to retain their distinct status.
Labour has responded to the warning that their support for Tim Loughton’s amendment could “wreck” the bill by submitting a manuscript amendment to Mrs Miller’s own amendment. This would commit the Government to an immediate review of civil partnerships but not to necessarily introduce them for straight couples.
A Government source told PinkNews.co.uk that Mrs Miller was “relaxed” about this amendment and that it requires Labour MPs who back it to first back her own proposals. The source said that Mrs Miller’s own amendment commits her to hold a review and an eventual consultation on proposals at any time within five years of the passing of the Marriage (Same sex couples) Bill.
The source said that the Government’s priority is to introduce same-sex marriage but it was prepared to conduct a review of civil partnerships “sooner rather than later” if it was the “will of Parliament.” The source stressed that the Government has no developed policy on civil partnerships and that there “would need to be a lot of policy work”, before making any concrete proposals on the issue.
PinkNews.co.uk’s source said that simply introducing opposite sex civil partnerships without a consultation would be irresponsible, not least because of the implications for pension rights and overseas relationship recognition.