MSPs seek views on civil partnerships for different sex couples

08.11.2019

 A proposal to make civil partnerships available to different sex couples is to be scrutinised by MSPs on the Scottish Parliament’s Equalities and Human Rights Committee.

The Committee has issued a call for views on the Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill, which would amend existing legislation to allow different sex couples to have a civil partnership. Currently this option is only available to same-sex couples.

This Bill follows a UK Supreme Court ruling which found this difference in treatment between same sex and different sex couples breaches human rights law.

Speaking as the call for views was launched, Committee Convener, Ruth Maguire MSP, said:

“Same sex couples who wish to formalise their commitment to each other currently have the option of either civil partnership or marriage. However, different sex couples only have the option of marriage.

“This Bill aims to address this anomaly, allowing all couples the choice between a civil partnership or a marriage.

“The Committee wants to find out if this approach is the best way to ensure equality between all those who want to formalise their relationship.

“We want to hear from individuals and organisations on whether they support extending civil partnerships to different sex couples, if this the right option to pursue, and whether the new legislation will have any impact on human rights or equality issues for any particular groups of people.”

The call for evidence, which is open until 31 January 2020, can be found online at www.parliament.scot/EHRiC

 

Background

The Bill also makes consequential changes to other legislation including:

  • amendments to Scottish family law;
  • recognition of certain overseas relationships between different sex couples;
  • amendments so that registration of a civil partnership will not prevent one partner changing legal gender, and
  • creation of an offence of forcing someone into a civil partnership.

The Bill follows the UK Supreme Court judgment in Steinfeld which found provisions of the Civil Partnership Act 2004 to be incompatible with Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights taken in conjunction with Article 8, in that it denied different sex couples the opportunity to enter into civil partnerships, while same sex couples had the choice of either marriage or civil partnership.  

Following the ruling, the Scottish Government consulted on the future of civil partnership setting out two options for change: closure of civil partnership to new relationships from a date in the future, or extension of civil partnership to different sex couples. Whilst both would have been consistent with the UK Supreme Court decision in Steinfeld the Scottish Government considered it better to extend civil partnership.

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