A civil partnership is a legal relationship exclusively for same sex couples and distinct from marriage. The civil partnership gives couples the same legal standing as heterosexual marriage and ensures parity of treatment regarding rights and responsibilities that come from forming a civil partnership.

There are a number of differences between a civil partnership and marriage. A civil marriage is formed when a couple exchange spoken words, whereas a civil partnership is formed when the second civil partner signs the relevant document. A marriage can take the form of either a religious or civil ceremony, but the formation of a civil partnership is an entirely civil process. There is no requirement for a ceremony to take place and the act does not allow any form of religious service to take place during the registration process. Couples can however arrange a civil partnership ceremony in addition if they wish.

Civil Partnership Ceremony

Same sex couples who register their partnership gain access to a number of legal rights. These include rights to survivor pensions, equal treatment for tax and benefit purposes together with next of kin rights. Along with these rights come certain responsibilities including parental and maintenance duties if applicable.

At present, when a heterosexual couple gives notice of their intention to marry, their details, including names, occupations and addresses, are made public, as the marriage register is a public document. When drafting the civil partnership act the Government recognised that there could be a risk of harassment for some lesbian and gay couples if their sexual orientation were made public. Because of this addresses are not published to protect people’s privacy.

Following a registration you may take your partner’s name if you wish, change the name on your passport and driving licence, and you will legally be civil partners.

Guest post by Lester Gethings

Image from Annamarie Stepney Photography