Same-sex civil partnerships & marriages in the UK
Brief history and timeline.
Detailed timeline: 2001 to 2003 activities leading
release of the civil partnership bill's text.
A brief history and timeline:
There were two bills proposed during Parliament's 2001-2002 session that
would have given limited recognitions to same-sex couples:
The British Broadcasting Corporation reported on 2003-JUN-30 that the British government
had issued a consultation paper on same-sex relationships. It is titled "Civil
Partnership - A framework for the legal recognition of same sex couples." "2 The article described plans to create a system of
"civil partnerships" for gays and lesbians
that would parallel the existing system of opposite-sex marriages. It would be
called a Civil Partnership Registration Scheme. However, relationship registration would not be called a marriage and partnershipped couples could not claim to be married. All three main British political parties: Conservative, Liberal
Democrats, and Labour were in general agreement with this proposal.
During the Queen's Speech on 2003-NOV-26, the government announced its intention to introduce a Civil Partnership bill. 1
The Civil Partnership Bill:
Covers only same-sex couples. The Government decided that since
co-habiting opposite-sex couples had the option of marrying, they would
not be allowed to form civil partnerships.
Was preceded by a government consultation paper "Civil
Partnership: A framework for the legal recognition of same sex couples"
Was introduced to the House of Lords by the government on
2004-MAR-30 as Bill 53 of the 2003-2004 session.
Was enlarged by the House of Lords to include close relatives
whether same-sex or opposite-sex, who are both over the age of 30 and
have been living together continually for over 12 years. Baroness Scotland of Asthal noted that this amendment
would allow a woman to form a partnership with her grandfather; she
would have her own mother as a step-daughter! This amendment was
overturned later by the House of Commons. "1
Was passed by the House of Lords in its third reading on
Had its first reading in the House of Commons on 2004-JUL-05 as Bill
132 of the 2003-2004 session.
Passed its second reading on 2004-OCT-12 by a vote of 426 to 49.
Passed its third and final reading on 2004-NOV-09., in spite of a
wrecking attempt by some Conservative backbenchers.
Was approved by the House of Lords on 2004-NOV-17 by a vote of 251
to 136 in spite of still another last-minute wrecking attempt.
Received Royal Assent on 2004-NOV-18
announced on 2005-FEB-21 that same-sex partners would be able to apply for partnership on or after 2005-DEC-05, and be "Civil Partnershipped" 16 days later.
The law covers all of the United Kingdom. However, there are minor
procedural differences to civil partnerships in Northern Ireland and
of their unique legal systems. "3
There is a 15 day "cooling-off" period before couples can be "Civil
Partnershipped." According to the Government News Network, same-sex
couples were first permitted to enter civil partnerships on 2005-DEC-21, in time for Winter Solstice and Christmas celebrations.
The UK became the tenth European
Union country to permit same-sex couples to either enter into conventional
marriages or civil unions with similar or equivalent privileges.
The media in the UK subsequently largely dropped the term "civil
partnerships" and adopted the terms "to wed," "wedding" "pink
wedding," and "gay wedding." "4
Detailed history: 2001-NOV: Government's long-range plan introduced:
The government's minister for women and equality, Baroness Sally Morgan,
mentioned during an interview on 2001-OCT-31 that the Labour government was
closely following the practices of many other European countries which were
registering same-sex relationships. Those countries granted same-sex
couples privileges that had been previously reserved as special rights only for
opposite-sex married couples. She said:
"There's no suggestion
whatsoever that the government would move on the issue of marriage. We are very
clear that marriage remains as it is....There is an increasing public
debate on rights for same-sex partnerships," she said, "and I think it's one
that the government is watching with interest because there are clearly areas
where most people would recognize that at the moment there is some unfairness."
Reaction by conservative Christian individuals and groups was swift, and
Hugh McKinney, spokesperson for the National Family Campaign said that the plan would be "an affront to married people and their
Ann Widdecombe, a Roman Catholic Member of Parliament said: "This
would undermine the institution of marriage. Any kind of formal
recognition of gay relationships would militate against marriage."
Cornelia Oddie spokesperson for the Roman Catholic group Family and
Youth Concern, said: "Gay rights campaigners have won yet another
Dr. Adrian Rogers, spokesperson for Family Focus said, "I
think the promotion of homosexuality should be completely unlawful. We are
not allowed to promote it in schools so how can we allow local authorities
to promote the lifestyle?"
2002-DEC: Government plan confirmed:
During 2002-DEC, Barbara Roche, the UK's Minister for Social Exclusion and
Equalities, discussed government plans to grant same-sex couples the same
legal rights as married couples. She told the BBC's Today program that
the government would publicize detailed proposals in mid-2003. She said:
are a number of people in gay relationships, in lesbian relationships, who are
in loving relationships but their partnerships have no recognition in
law....What I am seeking to do is to say I think there is a strong case for
considering a civil partnership registration scheme."
In Britain, as in may
other countries, gay and lesbian couples had no legal standing at the time. They are
regarded as roommates. Roche described horror stories in which one partner was
refused visits in hospital or were excluded from funerals. Others had to sell
their homes to pay the inheritance tax which is non existent for married
Some reactions to the proposal:
Colin Hart, director of the Christian Institute, opposed the proposa. He said:
"... marriage is supported by the state because it is a relationship for the bringing up of children.... This seems to be equating
some relationships, namely gay relationships, with marriage and I think that is very wrong."
Hart appears to be unaware that many same-sex couples adopt children, and many lesbian couples conceive children through in-vitro fertilization or artificial insemination.
Oliver Letwin, a representative of the Conservative party, called for same-sex couples to be given some of the rights and privileges
that married couples receive, while still recognizing that marriage has:
"... huge cultural and religious connotations. ... What we are talking about here is civil partnership registration-- the ability to have
financial rights, legal rights which give you protection as a couple....Whilst we attach a huge importance to the institution of
marriage and want to keep that as it is, we do recognize that gay couples suffer from some serious practical grievances."
Evan Harris, health spokesman for the Liberal Democrat party,
said that the idea was overdue. He said: "Couples of any sex must be
made equal before the law."
David Allison, spokesman for the gay rights group Outrage! said: "We certainly welcome it and would hope that the
Government will go on and recognize these relationships in full."
2003-JUN: Text of government plan released:
The proposal involved a same-sex registry
that committed same-sex partners could "...sign at a register office in front
of the registrar and two witnesses." They would then be considered "civil
partners" and receive rights and responsibilities equivalent to married
couples. As with married
couples, civil partners would not be compelled to testify against
each other in court. In the event of a relationship breakdown, the couple could
dissolve their partnership through the courts, much as married couples
seek divorces. The discussion paper said:
"The government intends registered civil
partnerships to be long-term, stable relationships so there would be a formal,
court-based process for dissolution. The partner applying for the partnership to
be dissolved would have to show that it had broken down irretrievably."
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
"The Civil Partnership Bill [HL]: background and debate,"
House of Commons Research Paper 04/64. at: http://www.parliament.uk/ **
"Civil Partnership: A framework for the legal recognition of same
sex couples," Women & Equality Unit, at: http://www.womenandequalityunit.gov.uk/ **
"Civil Partnership Bill," PinkProducts, at: http://www.pinkproducts.co.uk/
"City to pioneer 'gay marriages'," BBC News, 2005-MAR-15, at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/
Terri Judd, "London to
Recognize Same-Sex Couples," The Gay Financial Network,
2001-JUN-29, at: http://www.gfn.com/
- John Carvel, "London couple first to sign gay register,"
2001-SEP-4, The Gay Financial Register, at: http://www.gfn.com/
- Sarah Womack, "London
Considers Gay Marriage Register," 2001-NOV-5, The Gay
Financial Register, at: http://www.gfn.com/
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Copyright © 2003 to 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2003-JUL-1
Latest update: 2013-MAY-28
Author: B.A. Robinson