Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Extend Civil Partnerships to Opposite-Sex Couples: My Response to the UK Government's Civil Partnership Consultation Survey

To achieve equality before the law in the UK, and enable my partner and I to enter into the civil partnership we so desire, it is necessary to extend civil partnerships to opposite-sex couples. Some people have asked me to explain why. Below, I have copied some of my responses to the UK government's Civil Partnership Consultation Survey, by way of explanation. My answers may also help others fill out the survey in support of extending civil partnerships to all. The survey can be found here and needs to be completed by April 17.

Question 1:  What are your views on abolishing the legal relationship of civil partnership once same sex couples can marry? Please choose one answer only.    

I believe civil partnership should not be abolished because _________________ 

They are a valued and valuable social institution. There are many individuals and couples, including opposite sex couples, who would like to enter into civil partnerships. We should dismantle the discrimination and allow all couples to enter into civll partnerships, as we have done with marriage, not demolish a perfectly good social institution (built at great public expense in terms of rules, procedures and forms) in which many couples would like to live! 

Question 3: What are your views about extending civil partnerships to opposite sex couples? Please choose one answer only.

I believe civil partnerships should be extended to opposite sex couples because_________________  

In a democratic society we should all be equal before the law. The ban on opposite-sex civil partnerships is unjust discrimination. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that everyone is entitled to equal treatment and protection against discrimination. Legalising same-sex marriage was the recognition that LGBT people are of equal worth, equal love and have the right to equal treatment in law. The same principle of equality applies in the case of civil partnerships. Heterosexual couples should be able to have a civil partnership if they wish.


Question 4: Given the choice between forming a civil partnership or living together as an opposite sex couple, which would you personally prefer? Please choose one answer only.

I would prefer to form a civil partnership because_________________ 

I would like to formalise, de jure, my relationship to someone I already consider to be my de facto partner. I want to be part of an institution that is free of patriarchal history, that formalises a relationship of equals, and that has sought to include previously marginalised and persecuted groups, not sought to exclude them. Civil partnership captures this as it allows a formal, legal tie, but without the ‘baggage’ of a centuries-old tradition – and all the gender and cultural stereotypes that marriage entails. I want a simple civil contract between myself and my partner, in which the state recognises us as partners, and gives us all the rights and responsibilities that flow from that recognition. I hope that the UK government and the general public understands why the availability of this option is important for me and my partner as well as other same-sex and opposite-sex couples.
 


Question 5: Given the choice of forming a civil partnership or marrying your opposite sex partner, which would you personally prefer? Please choose one answer only.

I would prefer to form a civil partnership because_________________ 

Again, I want to be part of an institution that is free of patriarchal history, that formalises a relationship of equals, and that has sought to include previously marginalised and persecuted groups, not sought to exclude them. Civil partnership captures this as it allows a formal, legal tie, but without the ‘baggage’ of a centuries-old tradition – and all the gender and cultural stereotypes that marriage entails. 





Question 6: Are there any costs and benefits that are not included in this document linked to:

COSTS: By failing to open up civil partnerships to opposite-sex couples, the law will remain discriminatory against opposite-sex couples. Those of us who want to enter into civil partnerships will be denied that opportunity. We would be forced to continue living together without the rights and protections that other couples, who are able to become civil partners, are entitled to. We may have to look abroad for civil partnerships or civil unions (to countries such as France, which has a Pacte Civil de Solidarit√©, or PACS), at great cost and inconvenience to ourselves, and with no guarantee of those unions being recognised upon our return to the UK. 

BENEFITS: The main benefit of extending civil partnerships to opposite-sex couples is that there would be equality before the law - at last! By opening up the institution, the UK would blaze a progressive trail, and be a shining light to other countries. Opposite-sex couples would be able to choose freely whether to cohabit, marry or enter civil partnerships, with the added protections that these state-recognised unions would provide. The status of civil partnerships for those who already have them would be elevated by virtue of the institution becoming one that couples of all genders and sexualities can enter into out of choice, and not because they have been excluded from marrying. 

Question 7: Are there any detailed implementation issues that are not included in this document linked to:

It is so simple to extend civil partnerships to opposite-sex couples - just amend the existing law so that couples entering into the contract can be of the opposite sex. Done!

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If you would like to know more about the differences between marriage and civil partnership, please see this UK government document for explanation. There are several differences in the ceremonies and contracts themselves between civil marriages and civil partnerships, but not in terms of substantive rights, which is why it's preferable from my point of view. Things that stand out for me - because they reveal the lingering patriarchal undertones of the institution of marriage - are: Marriage certificates include the names of only the fathers of the parties; Civil partnership certificates include the names of both parents of the parties. Grounds for divorce in marriage: Adultery and the petitioner finds it intolerable to live with the respondent. The definition of adultery is sexual intercourse with someone of the opposite sex outside of marriage. In civil partnership: This is not a fact which could be relied on for ending a civil partnership. The beauty of a civil partnership is one gets the same rights and protections of marriage (boring but probably important stuff like pension rights!) without this baggage - WIN!