Lib Dems welcome mixed sex civil partnerships news

News that  the Government will legislate for mixed sex civil partnerships in England and Wales was welcomed by various Liberal Democrats. It makes sense that people should have the choice of what form of ceremony to have.

Our Lynne Featherstone was the Minister who instigated same sex marriage in England.

She welcomed the news on Twitter.

Lynne has always acknowledged the support of Theresa May, who, as Home Secretary, gave her Bill crucial backing. However, the Tories would never allow Lynne to introduce mixed sex civil partnerships. Even now they haven’t done it entirely voluntarily. They were forced to either scrap civil partnerships for same sex couples or introduce them for everyone.

It was therefore sad that the Prime Minister didn’t acknowledge Lynne’s role.

LGBT+ Lib Dems chair Jennie Rigg welcomed the move and said that this was just one of the things that needs to happen to achieve proper partnership equality. I did love the very on message inclusion of “demand better.”

Civil partnerships for all couples was the intent of the original Civil Partnerships legislation in 2002 by Lib Dem Lord Lester. Sadly the Government of the day chose instead to deliver a ‘separate and unequal’ two-tier solution. When we became the first major party to call for same-sex marriage, we also supported bringing Civil Partnerships to couples regardless of gender. We’re proud to have delivered same-sex marriage in Government, and happy to see this further step for equality 16 years after we first tried to introduce it.

There is still work to do before we have equal marriage – including on pension rights, and the ‘spousal veto’ for trans people. We are calling for the latter to be scrapped as part of the propsed reform of the Gender Recognition Act, which should also see an end to medical gatekeeping and enforcement of harmful gender stereotypes.

We wish good luck and happiness to all those who embark on civil partnerships, and will continue to Demand Better for equality.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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13 Comments

  • Graham Evans 2nd Oct '18 - 10:34pm

    This move reinforcing the need for the Government to act swiftly to remove the discrimination against same sex couples when it comes to occupatioal pension benefits. It is now a considerable time since this was ruled illegal by the ECJ, but the British Government has still not acted to implement the judgement. If the regulations relating to opposite sex couples mirror the regulations relating to same sex couples we will have the bizar situation that an opposite sex couple who opt for a civil partnership will have fewer pension rights than an opposite sex couple who opt to get married. On the other hand, if opposite sex civil partnerships are treated the same as opposite sex marriages, without Government action to rectify the current UK law, the discrimination suffered by same sex couples will continue.

  • I can understand why the government requires codification of peoples’ relationships for inheritance tax purposes, but I still don’t like it. I have been in a relationship for 39 years and, to quote Joni Mitchell, “We don’t need no piece of paper from the City Hall….” I support inheritance taxes, but being forced to get married or enter a civil partnership in order to avoid selling our home when one of us dies seems wrong.

  • Graham Evans 3rd Oct '18 - 8:27am

    @ tonyhill The requirements to register a civil partnership are very basic. All both parties have to do is sign a piece of paper provided by the registrar confirming their personal details, and have their signatures witnessed. There are no further legal requirements. Couples can if they wish augment the legal requirements by having a ceremony which resembles a civil marriage but there is no requirement to do so. I would have thought that the basic legal requirements regarding a civil partnership actually meet your needs of wanting to avoid having to pay inheritance tax. How else could they be met?

  • I always saw civil partnerships as an ideological stepping stone to allowing marriage between same sex couples, being something of a sticking plaster to ensure the rights of partners are formally recognised. I’m not convinced that having a two-tier system is especially helpful, except for those who made a show of insisting they didn’t want/need to get married when they were young, only to later realise that a legally recognised relationship is useful after all.

    I’m all for parity, so if people really do want mixed-sex civil partnerships then that’s fine and I wouldn’t want to stand in their way, but I’d have preferred just ditching them so we had a single system for everyone with focus on bringing in true marriage equality. Civil marriages can be pretty straight-forward for those who don’t want fuss. It would be interesting to see the figures for how many civil partnerships happen now that marriage is available to all.

  • Toby Keynes 3rd Oct '18 - 9:19am

    Great news that civil partnerships will be extended to mixed-sex couples.

    Deeply unfortunate that the government is still determined not to give legal recognition to humanist marriage ceremonies.

    The Equal Marriage Act included enabling legislation to allow this to happen; but the government has been squashing it ever since.

    We know there would be an explosion in demand for humanist weddings if they were legally recognised: in Scotland, they were first recognised in 2005 and last year they overtook Church of Scotland weddings as the most popular.

    So benefits from the continued refusal to recognised humanist weddings, and why will the government not recognise them?

    As a party, we should be calling the government to account on this.

  • @Fiona

    You do actually make the case for heterosexual civil partnerships – people for a whole host of reasons do not want to get married.

    As an aside it does gay/same sex/equal marriage does perhaps show the need for many different parties and actually all parties can be proud of their role in it. Blair and Labour for moving forward with civil partnerships, Cameron for selling gay marriage to the Conservatives and especially Lynne Featherstone and the Lib Dems without whom it would never have happened – at least for long time.

    At a time when we deplore problems and illiberalism in these pages it is good to see high profile gay Tory in Ruth Davidson, more and more high profile sportspeople etc. coming out such as Tom Daley and indeed being married. Although clearly it can be difficult still for many LGBT people and many in the public life and in certain sports etc. but that there is much more tolerance and liberalism is good and encouraging. We should also be tolerant and liberal towards those because of their faith, upbringing, morals see marriage as between a man and a woman etc. – which is a difficult balance to make.

  • Graham Evans 3rd Oct '18 - 2:21pm

    @ Fiona Many people consider that marriage is an institution rooted in patriarchy and gender inequality. This is why they favour the concept of civil partnership over marriage. (And of course in a same sex relationship patriarchy and gender inequality are potentially much less of an issue.) However many same sex couples consider marriage as a public recognition of the worth of their relationship, on a par with opposite sex relationships. Providing both options directly harms no one, while allowing couples to enjoy the same tax and other benefits which have come to be associated with marriage.

  • nvelope2003 3rd Oct '18 - 4:34pm

    tonyhill: “We don’t need no piece of paper from the City Hall…” but if you want to take advantage of tax concessions having a civil partnership is a lot simpler and more pleasant than completing an annual tax return. In any case it is not the piece of paper that makes the relationship is it ?

  • I thought I made it quite clear that I support inheritance tax and that I appreciate the need for the government to regulate how money is passed from one individual to another. At the moment if you are married the surviving partner does not pay inheritance tax on the deceased partner’s estate: if you are co-habiting the deceased’s estate is taxable and then the remainder of the deceased’s estate will be taxed again on the decease of the surviving partner. Yes, a civil partnership is a great improvement over this situation which is blatantly discriminatory in favour of marriage. However, the anarchist in me still doesn’t like the State being involved in how my partner and I choose to relate to one another.

  • Graham Evans 3rd Oct '18 - 9:34pm

    @ tonyhill You seem to want your cake and eat it. On the one hand you do not want the state to determine your relationship with your partner, but on the ther you seem to expect the state to grant you special priviledges with regard to inheritance tax simply because you have chosen to set up home with another person who is not already a blood relative. Had you set up home with a blood relative (say a sibling) you would have to pay inheritance tax on the death of the other person. So at least you have an option of avoiding inheritance tax not available to others who may have lived together throughout their lives.

  • Graham, you seem to be missing my point, or perhaps I have not made myself clear: tax should be fair for everyone and not dependent upon an arbitrary designation by state or religion. With property values as they are in many parts of the country inheritance tax is something that affects increasing numbers of people, and we should be campaigning for equal treatment for all relationships. This is not about avoiding inheritance tax: that is payable on the death of the second person in the relationship whatever happens.

  • Innocent Bystander 4th Oct '18 - 8:30am

    ” that is payable on the death of the second person ”
    But not on the first, as Graham correctly pointed out, which is the key difference.

  • Without some form of documentation how would the state or other authority determine whether there was a relationship between two people ? I appreciate that even with paperwork the relationship might no longer be real but there has to be some way of doing it and marriage or civil partnership seems the best way. However, brothers/sisters or brother and sister or other close relative should be able to avail themselves of the inheritance tax relief in respect of a shared house where the relationship can be easily verified by documents. Close blood relatives (brothers/sisters) cannot marry or have civil partnerships although cousins can marry.

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