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Bill to extend civil partnerships to opposite sex couples

Wedding - Image credit: PA Photos

Bill to extend civil partnerships to opposite sex couples

Opposite sex couples would be able to enter into a civil partnership under a Scottish Government proposal to give them the same choices as same sex couples.

A new bill will be introduced to Scottish Parliament in Autumn, bringing the UK Civil Partnership Act into line with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) on equality grounds.

The Act currently prevents opposite sex couples from entering into civil partnerships.

Cabinet Secretary for Social Security and Older People Shirley-Anne Somerville said extending civil partnerships would give “equality and choice to all”.

“All couples will now have the option of a civil partnership or marriage which is a ground breaking change for Scotland,” Somerville said.

“We will be providing people with the option to enter into a legally recognised relationship which reflects their personal views. We wanted to ensure all voices were heard in regard to the future of civil partnership in Scotland and we have listened very carefully to the views of respondents to the consultation.”

Liberal Democrats equalities committee member Alex Cole-Hamilton said the bill will bring to an end “a separate and unequal two-tier solution, once and for all”.

"It seems only sensible to allow all couples to choose the form of partnership best suited to them,” he said.

Since 2004 civil partnerships have been available in Scotland for same sex couples only.

The issue around civil partnerships’ incompatibility with the ECHR was exposed when heterosexual couple Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan, from London, took the issue to the Supreme Court, arguing the law was discriminatory. The court unanimously ruled in their favour in June 2018.

The UK Government has announced that it will make opposite sex civil partnership available in England and Wales by the end of 2019.

In a civil partnership a couple is entitled to the same legal treatment in terms of inheritance, tax, pensions and next-of-kin arrangements as marriage.

The bill comes after a consultation last year on the future of civil partnership in Scotland, to obtain views on two options for changing the law of civil partnership: either ending civil partnerships altogether or making civil partnerships available to opposite sex couples.

There were 481 responses to the consultation, urging the government to extend civil partnerships because all couples should be given the opportunity to enter into a legally recognised relationship; it facilitates access to rights and responsibilities to couples who do not want to marry; and it would give equality of choice to all couples.

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