The Civil Partnerships Bill – equality for all couples?

Equality within civil partnerships made the news in October 2018, following a Supreme Court defeat earlier this year, and now the he Civil Partnerships Bill has secured its third reading in the House of Commons without the need for a vote – and now moves to the House of Lords despite some opposition.

The legislation follows a court case brought by Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan in June 2018, which found unanimously that it was discriminatory to restrict civil partnerships just to same sex couples.

The Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths (Registration Etc.) Bill 

The Prime Minister announced in October that the right to a civil partnership – which has been available to same-sex couples since 2005 – will now be extended to everyone. Following this, the Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths (Registration Etc.) Bill completed its passage through the House of Commons on 26 October 2018.

The Bill, which was introduced by Tory MP Tim Loughton, now compels ministers to make the legal changes within six months, despite some opposition from the government. The Prime Minister’s official spokesman called for a delay, saying that law makers needed more time for “the government equality office to consider all aspects of civil partnerships for heterosexual and same-sex couples. This is currently under way and we will consider its conclusions in due course.”

Once the Bill becomes law, it will mean that same and opposite sex couples will be able to enter into a civil partnership if they prefer not to marry but want to formalise their relationship legally.  

In a statement (issued before MPs backed Mr Loughton’s bill) Equalities Minister Penny Mordaunt said the government was planning to launch a consultation anyway, before introducing legislation in the next Parliamentary session, which begins in May.

What happens next?

The Supreme Court ruling now means that the Secretary of State has to make arrangements to prepare a report looking at how existing laws should be changed to equality between same-sex couples and other couples, “in terms of their future ability or otherwise to form civil partnerships.” The report will have to make clear what the Government’s plans are to make this possible. 

Before the Bill can become law, there will also need to be a public consultation, and the Secretary of State will also have to lay the report before Parliament. Other issues covered in Mr Loughton’s Bill include;

  • marriage registration; In England and Wales, all marriages are registered using a paper-based system which include details of the father but not the mother of the bride and groom. There have been calls for mothers’ details to be included in marriage registration.
  • The report on civil partnership;
  • A report on registration of pregnancy loss, to enable registration of a baby stillborn before 24 weeks, and
  • coroners’ investigations into stillbirths.

To find out more about the Bill click here. To follow the Bill’s progress, click here. 

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