Holyrood looks at plans to scrap civil partnerships

Equality campaigners who backed gay weddings support civil partnerships for mixed-sex couples. Picture: Neil Hanna
Equality campaigners who backed gay weddings support civil partnerships for mixed-sex couples. Picture: Neil Hanna
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THE prospect of scrapping civil partnerships in Scotland is to be examined by government ministers, it emerged yesterday.

The Scottish Government has launched a consultation on the future of the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act 2014, the ground-breaking legislation which gave legal recognition to same-sex partnerships.

Tim Hopkins, the Equality Network

Equality means making that available to all

The consultation has been launched amid growing evidence that the number of people entering civil partnerships is declining following the legalisation of gay marriage.

Civil partnerships offer much of the legal protection of matrimony, but those campaigning for the introduction of gay weddings were anxious that same-sex couples could also enjoy the status and tradition offered by marriage.

Currently civil partnerships are only available to same sex couples in Scotland. The government consultation suggests that ministers are not inclined to broaden civil partnerships to include mixed-sex partners, who may want their relationship legally recognised without becoming married.

The consultation document said: “The consultation seeks views on three options: no change, no new civil partnerships after a certain date in the future, or introducing opposite sex civil partnership. The consultation indicates that the government is not persuaded that opposite sex civil partnership should be introduced in Scotland.”

Yesterday. Tim Hopkins of the Equality Network pressure group said there were both same-sex and mixed-sex couples, who wanted to enter civil partnerships.

The Equality Network has consulted hundreds of people of all sexual persuasions and there is a clear demand from a significant number of mixed-sex and same-sex couples who would prefer a civil partnership to a marriage.

 On the possibility that civil partnerships could be scrapped, Mr Hopkins said: “This takes away an option that some people want.”

Mr Hopkins was also disappointed that the government appeared to be in favour of not opening up civil partnerships to all. He said: “We are surprised and disappointed that the Scottish Government appear to have decided already to oppose equal civil partnership, that is, making civil partnership available to all couples regardless of gender. That is the only option that respects both equality and diversity. We know that a significant minority of mixed-sex and same-sex couples would prefer a civil partnership to a marriage, and at the moment only same-sex couples have that option. Equality means making that available to all.”

Last year Rebecca Steinfield and Charles Keidan took legal action in England because they wanted to be recognised as equal partners rather than husband and wife. The couple claimed their objection to marriage was based on its origins as an institution which exploited women for sexual and domestic services.

According to the Scottish Government, between April and June of this year, there were eight civil partnerships in Scotland – 121 fewer than the equivalent period in 2014. That compared with 7,760 opposite sex marriages this year. There were 427 same-sex weddings, of these 236 were couples changing from civil partnerships to marriages.

The government’s inclination not to open up civil partnerships to couples of the opposite sex was welcomed by the Free Church of Scotland.

A church spokesman said: “On the face of it, it would appear to be logical and sensible for the Scottish Government to open up civil partnerships to heterosexual couples, because it is only available to same-sex couples. 
However, this demonstrates our point all along that the legalisation of same-sex marriages, which created this discrepancy, would ultimately lead to the destruction of marriage between a man and a woman.

“Civil partnership law doesn’t require a lifelong commitment, whereas with marriage couples vow on their wedding day to stay together ‘till death do us part’. Pushing ahead with mixed-sex civil partnerships would be the creation of ‘marriage-lite’, the lower-commitment option, which further undermines the Christian view of marriage. So we are pleased the Scottish Government is unconvinced about this.”