Liberal Democrats support mixed-sex civil partnerships – and Tories don’t. There’s a surprise.

imageFrom yesterday’s Sunday Times (£):

DAVID CAMERON is to veto proposals to give heterosexual couples the same right as gays to enter into civil partnerships, provoking a coalition split with the Liberal Democrats.

Cameron believes that allowing civil partnerships for heterosexuals would undermine the sanctity of marriage and alienate many traditional Tory voters.

It has put him at loggerheads with Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister, who wants Britain to follow Holland and New Zealand and give heterosexual couples the choice between a traditional marriage ceremony or a civil partnership.

The row follows the coalition’s move to legalise gay marriage, which Cameron drove through despite opposition from some backbenchers and activists in Tory heartlands.

Cameron is said to have no appetite for taking on the church again over marriage and is resisting demands by gay and human rights groups that it would be discriminatory to deny heterosexuals the same right to civil partnerships as gays.

Good to see that our ministers have been fighting for the liberal option. Three years ago, Sophie Bridger argued on this site for the extension of civil partnerships to mixed-sex couples, saying that they provided a “modern, radical way to commit to a partner”:

Marriage comes with a lot of social baggage. Brides can keep their name, they can refuse to be given away by their father, but ultimately they’re still participating in an institution that originated in the ownership of women.

It’s a pity that this extension of genuine choice has to founder because David Cameron doesn’t want to upset his backbenchers again. It should definitely be looked at again in the next Parliament if there is a progressive majority for it.

The Equal Love graphic above is the logo of the Equal Love campaign

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  • I’m struggling to understand the point of civil partnerships now we have gay marriage. What is the difference between a civil partnership and a marriage? Obviously you’ve got people who are in CPs who may not want the hassle of getting married since I believe they already have the same rights?

    It would have been easier if we had just introduced same sex marriage from the start. Perhaps that wold have been too much for some people. Why would heterosexual couples want a civil partnership instead of a marriage? Because marriage has historical baggage?

  • The thing is, now that loving couples can get married, is to redefine what a civil partnership is. To my mind fundamentally civil partnership allows for the formalising of a long-term ‘care’ relationship – I use the care in its broadest sense. So it could permit a wider range of formal relationship arrangements than are permitted under marriage. Similarly is a civil partnership really instead of marriage or is it something else; so that a person could be both married and in a civil partnership?

  • I can’t see the problem with having two different institutions for showing commitment to a partner.

    There seem to be quite a few people I know who are having “quickie” weddings in a registry office and then having a big ceremony a year or three later when they can afford it. I suspect that many of them would be very happy to have the “quickie” registry office be a civil partnership, and then have the grand, expensive event actually be a wedding.

    That would protect their legal rights from when they formed the civil partnership, while making the big, expensive, wedding actually the wedding and not technically a “commitment ceremony” or some such.

  • lynne featherstone 29th Apr '14 - 12:30am

    It will be in our manifesto – I trust!

  • If I were to go and get married in a registry office tomorrow it would have nothing to do with the church so I am not sure what the need is for a heterosexual civil partnership.

    For existing CPs, would it not be possible to introduce a simple law that allows civil partners who wish to, to call themselves married if they wish? (most seem to already, informally, and the legal rights are the same)

    A focus on a “big day” and what that’s called is never a particularly encouraging predictor of a lasting relationship.

  • Ann – re conversion of civil partnership to marriage. That’s on its way, it’s one of the bits of the same-sex marriage law that are due to come into force later in the year. September I believe.

  • nvelope2003 29th Apr '14 - 4:30pm

    It sounds like an excellent idea and I cannot see why anyone would object if that is what some couples would like.

  • Sarah Cooney 1st May '14 - 1:46pm

    Some opposite-sex couples genuinely do not want to be associated with the institution of marriage – we see it as a sexist, patriarchal system with optional religiosity. The marriage certificate today still only has the father’s name on it… the mother is deemed irrelevant and unimportant… yet another example of everyday sexism. We live in a modern society, and like an increasing number of European countries we would value the option to legally commit to our partner outside of the institution of marriage. So no… a civil wedding in a registry office would not do it. Civil partnership is different for a very good reason. Some couples simply do not want to get married – we just want the chance to have a legally-endorsed partnership without the sexist and religious baggage.

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