Heterosexual couples promised equal access to civil partnerships
The Scottish Government said legislation making the change would be brought forward in the autumn, after a landmark ruling at the UK Supreme Court a year ago.
Judges at the country’s highest court unanimously ruled that restricting civil partnerships to gay people breached the European Convention on Human Rights as it created an essential inequality.
They found in favour of Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan, a couple from London who wanted to enter into a civil partnership as they regarded the institution of marriage as patriarchal and sexist.
The ruling prompted Prime Minister Theresa May to announce that the law on marriage would be changed in England and Wales, with civil partnerships for all expected to be introduced by the end of this year.
In its consultation on the possible change, the Scottish Government admitted that the demand for mixed sex civil partnerships was “likely to be low”, with most couples still favouring marriages.
It also considered scrapping the creation of same sex civil partnerships, which have declined markedly in Scotland since gay marriages were legalised at the end of 2014.
However, it concluded that some same sex couples still preferred the idea of a civil partnership and that ending it as an option might “inadvertently pressurise couples” to convert theirs to marriage.
Some consultation responses also said opening civil partnerships to mixed sex couples would give those who did not want to get married access to the same rights and responsibilities.
Equalities Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said the “groundbreaking” change to the law would give “equality and choice to all” couples in Scotland.
“We will be providing people with the option to enter into a legally recognised relationship which reflects their personal views,” she added.
The move was welcomed by the Humanist Society Scotland, which has been campaigning for the change for five years. “It is disappointing that it took a couple to lodge a legal challenge at the Supreme Court to force the issue,” said chief executive Fraser Sutherland. “Now we will be able to offer all couples the choice of a legal marriage or civil partnership, and we look forward to carrying out the first of these opposite-sex civil partnerships in the months to come.”