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Government considers civil partnership conversion for opposite sex couples

Plans for the introduction of heterosexual civil partnerships have been published by the government.

The publication follows a Supreme Court ruling in June last year that denying heterosexual couples the right to enter a civil partnership was in breach of human rights legislation.

Civil partnerships were originally introduced in 2004 as alternative to marriage for use by same sex couples. But after the introduction of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013, civil partnerships were left in place despite calls for their extension to heterosexual couples.

The recently published Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths (Registration etc) Act 2019 gave the government the power to “amend the Civil Partnership Act 2004 so that two persons who are not of the same sex are eligible to form a civil partnership in England and Wales (provided that they would be eligible to do so apart from the question of sex).”

The Equalities Office has now announced how it plans to do this. The document, entitled Implementing Opposite-Sex Civil Partnerships: Next Steps, explains that:

 “The main body of the document sets out the changes we intend to make to existing legislation before the end of the year in order to allow opposite-sex couples to form civil partnerships. We have already sought views from key stakeholders on most of these issues. We intend, wherever appropriate, to extend existing rights that apply to same-sex civil partners or opposite-sex married couples to opposite-sex civil partners.”

But the department also wants to consult on one particular issue: whether or not existing opposite sex married couples should be allowed to convert their relationships into civil partnerships, in recognition of the fact that civil partnerships were not available when they originally married: the reverse of the right held by same sex couples to convert civil partnerships into marriages.

Tory MP Penny Mordaunt is former Minister for Equalities (as well as Defence Minister). She said:

“There are all sorts of reasons why people may choose not to marry, but for a long time it has been the only option for many wanting the legal security it provides.”

She added:

“Last year the Prime Minister announced government would support the extension of civil partnerships to opposite-sex couples. This is a fantastic step, providing an alternative to marriage for these couples. We must now consider those who didn’t haven’t had this as an option previously, that’s why we’re consulting on whether opposite-sex married couples can convert their marriages to civil partnerships.”

The consultation runs until August 20. Read Implementing Opposite-Sex Civil Partnerships: Next Steps here.

If you would like to discuss this change in the law, please contact our team on 01223 443333.