Published: 20th October 2015
Tory MP Tim Loughton plans to introduce a new bill which will be debated in Parliament on Wednesday that will propose changes to the Civil Partnership Act 2004 to remove the term 'same-sex' from current legislation, making civil partnerships available for heterosexual couples for the first time.
The Civil Partnerships Act 2004 states that only same-sex couples are allowed to enter into a civil partnership, making heterosexual couples ineligible for the status. It was first introduced to offer same-sex couples protection and legal rights in a similar way that marriage does to heterosexual couples before same-sex marriages were introduced on 29th March 2014.
Same-sex couples that were in a civil partnership were granted the ability to convert their civil partnership into a same-sex marriage on 10th December 2014, giving same-sex couples a slight legal advantage over heterosexual couples as they have the option of a civil partnership or a same-sex marriage, as opposed to heterosexual couples who only have the option of traditional marriage.
In other countries such as the Netherlands civil partnerships are available to both heterosexual and same-sex couples, with the majority of civil partnerships being between heterosexual couples. The Prime Minister has already made his feelings clear and has rejected calls to open up civil partnerships to heterosexual couples in the past because he wants to "promote marriage rather than weaken it."
A public consultation took place throughout 2014 into the future of civil partnerships, with the Government announcing in June 2014 that current legislation on civil partnerships will remain the same. The consultation received over 10,000 responses, with more than 75% against opening up civil partnerships to heterosexual couples and around 30% wanting to abolish civil partnerships altogether.
Mr Loughton's new bill is seen largely as a symbolic gesture given that the Government have already previously decided against allowing heterosexual couples to enter into civil partnerships. Mr Loughton has been noted as being opposed to same-sex marriages in 2013 and was even accused of trying to derail the legislation by former Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone.
Ms Featherstone wrote a piece on her website during the debate on same-sex marriage, saying "In the case of the opposite sex Civil Partnership proposals it's a matter of beware opponents bearing gifts - for the people pushing this change are not those with records of supporting equality and marriage rules that accommodate a diversity of couples."
"No, instead the proposals are coming from the likes of Tim Loughton and others who are avowed and determined opponents of equal marriage. Have Tim and his colleagues suddenly become converts to the cause of equality? Given their public statements, I fear what is at work here is rather darker and more cynical."
Although Mr Loughton was opposed to same-sex marriage in 2013, he remains focused on trying to open up civil partnerships for heterosexual couples as he believes that current legislation has created "a new and substantial inequality" because heterosexuals don't have the same options as same-sex couples do.
The amendments to the Civil Partnership Act 2004 are set to be discussed on Wednesday 21st October 2015 in the House of Commons.
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