EQUALITY campaigners have launched a campaign to give straight couples in Scotland the right to enter civil partnerships.
The drive to allow mixed-sex couples to give their relationship a legal basis outside marriage will see campaigners urge Scottish ministers to take a different path from the UK Government, which has outlawed heterosexual civil partnerships.
Currently, heterosexuals are ineligible to enter civil partnerships as legislation passed around the same time by both UK and Scottish Governments in 2004 stipulated that they should be strictly for gay couples.
David Cameron and religious groups argued for the ban on heterosexuals, claiming that opening up civil partnerships to straight couples would undermine the sanctity of marriage.
The legality of the UK Government’s decision, which applied to England and Wales, is now being challenged in court by a heterosexual couple living south of the Border who want to have a civil partnership.
Equality campaigners have suggested that there is the prospect of a similar action being taken against the Scottish Government legislation of 2004 if nothing is done to allow heterosexual civil partnerships here.
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When the Scottish Parliament debated its plans for gay marriage and passed the Marriage and Civil Partnerships Act, ministers said they would consult further on the issue of mixed-sex civil partnerships. That consultation is expected to be launched in the spring.
It is not known how many heterosexual couples in Scotland would choose a civil partnership ahead of marriage. But research in places such as Holland, where mixed sex couples can enter a civil partnership, suggests that around 10 per cent of heterosexual couples do so.
Yesterday, Tom French, policy and public affairs coordinator for the Equality Network, said; “Opening up civil partnership to mixed-sex couples is the unfinished business of the equal marriage legislation. Complete equality must mean ensuring that all couples have the same choices and rights when it comes to formal recognition of their partnerships. Now that same-sex marriage has been enacted, mixed-sex couples currently have fewer choices and rights. That is why opinion polls, and the results of Scottish Government consultations, show that the vast majority of the Scottish public, over 70 per cent, agree that mixed-sex couples should also be allowed the choice of a civil partnership.”
South of the Border, Rebecca Steinfield and Charles Keidan took legal action last month because they want to be recognised as equal partners rather than husband and wife. The couple say their objection to marriage is based on its origins as an institution which exploited women for sexual and domestic services.
Changing the law would bring Scotland into line with countries such as France, New Zealand and the Netherlands.
Last night, a Scottish Government spokesman said: “The Scottish Government, during the course of the parliamentary debates on the Marriage and Civil Partnerships (Scotland) Act, committed to consulting on the future of civil partnerships in spring 2015, which will include consideration of the issue of mixed-sex civil partnerships.”
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