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Civil partnership should be open to couples regardless of gender

The Equality Network believes that both marriage and civil partnership should be open to all couples regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation. The same choices should be available to all. Opening up civil partnership as well as marriage has always been part of the equal marriage campaign in Scotland.

We welcome the fact that on May 28th 2013, Alex Neil, the Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing, told the Scottish Parliament that he hoped to make an announcement soon about a review of the future of civil partnership in Scotland. Such a review has already been announced for England and Wales.

The Equality Network wants to see the introduction of mixed-sex civil partnership for the following reasons:

  • There is a continuing demand for civil partnership: Our surveys of LGBT people in Scotland show that around one quarter of same-sex couples would prefer a civil partnership to a marriage. Experience in other countries which have both marriage and civil partnership open to couples regardless of gender confirms similar level of demand. A significant minority of mixed-sex couples would also prefer civil partnership (experience in other countries suggests around one in ten couples).
  • More couples and their families would have better legal protection: It is likely that demand for mixed-sex civil partnerships would come from couples who otherwise would be unmarried cohabitants. Civil partnership would give them better legal protections than cohabitation does.
  • It would provide greater equality: If the Scottish Parliament legalises same-sex marriage but retains the ban on mixed-sex civil partnership then Scotland will move from one form of discrimination to another, in that same-sex couples will then have more options than mixed-sex couples.
  • It is a popular issue that people care about: In the analysis of the Scottish Government consultation, ‘The Registration of Civil Partnerships and Same-sex Marriage’ (2011), 67% of respondents said that civil partnerships should remain available. Despite the fact that there was no specific question on mixed-sex civil partnerships, at least a third of respondents used the consultation to express their support for the introduction of civil partnership for mixed-sex couples. In an Ipsos MORI Scotland opinion poll conducted in June 2012, 71% of respondents said that mixed-sex couples should have the right to get a civil partnership. A majority of MSPs have pledged their support for mixed-sex civil partnership and have committed themselves to voting for it with 83 having signed the Equality Network’s Equal Marriage Pledge to date. More than 10,000 people have signed a petition submitted to the First Minister calling for mixed-sex civil partnership. Over 30,000 people have sent emails, letters and postcards to their MSPs calling for mixed-sex civil partnership.
  • It would reduce legal uncertainty for transgender people: By fully opening both marriage and civil partnership for couples regardless of their legal gender, uncertainty would be eliminated for transgender people who do not identify as either male or female, including those from countries which record their official gender as ‘X’ rather than ‘M’ or ‘F’.
  • It would provide appropriate recognition for mixed-sex couples in civil unions from other countries: Currently the civil unions of mixed-sex couples from other countries are not recognised in Scotland. Changing the law to allow mixed-sex civil partnership in Scotland would provide mixed-sex couples in civil unions from other countries (e.g. France, the Netherlands) with appropriate recognition and rights.
  • It’s about freedom of choice: It should be up to the couple if they choose to enter into a relationship that is different from marriage. Registered partnerships have proved popular with mixed-sex couples in other countries where they are available, such as the Netherlands and France.