The Future of Civil Partnerships

Thank you for contacting me about the future of civil partnerships.

The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 had a specific focus on extending marriage to same-sex couples who could not previously marry. The Act did, however, stipulate that there should be a review of civil partnerships in England and Wales.

The Government has carried out two public consultations on the future of civil partnerships following the introduction of same-sex marriage: in 2012, as part of the consultation which led to the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, and again in 2014. Taken together, there was no clear consensus about how civil partnerships should change, and so the law was not changed. This decision is currently under judicial review. The High Court ruled in the Government's favour in 2016. In 2017, the Court of Appeal found by a majority that, whilst the claimants' human rights were affected, the Government was justified in its approach to assess the demand for civil partnerships before making changes to the law. The claimants have been granted an appeal and this will be heard by the Supreme Court later this year.

The Government Equalities Office have now laid out plans to assess how the law could be changed to remove the difference in treatment between opposite-sex couples and same-sex couples in relation to their ability to enter civil partnerships. They will bring forward proposals for changing the law in due course and this will include a full public consultation. I also understand the need for greater evidence in order to deal sensitively with this issue, which is why I welcome the new research being launched to fully understand demand for civil partnerships amongst both opposite-sex and same-sex couples. This will enable fully costed proposals to be developed and brought forward later this Parliament.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.