I was recently asked my opinion on civil partnerships and whether I backed the fight to extend them to heterosexual couples. I surprised myself with my response; I was not in favour. I have read articles and seen footage of Charles Keiden and Rebecca Steinfeld in their fight for civil partnerships to be extended to same sex couples but I do not understand their passionate commitment to this cause and the seemingly strong support for this movement when, in my mind, what we need is to reform our cohabitation laws and ensure that truly financially vulnerable people are protected.
I struggle to understand the real motive behind the desire for civil partnerships to be available across the board. The desire is claimed to be to protect the "vulnerability of mixed sex cohabiting couples". Really? I am part of a mixed sex cohabiting couple. I do not currently wish to marry and therefore recognise the need to make suitable provisions in my will to protect my partner should anything happen to me and vice versa. What else am I missing out on because of the lack of option to enter into a civil partnership when, if I wanted a greater commitment, I could choose to marry with either a religious or civil ceremony?
Marriage has been a socially recognised union between couples that establishes rights and obligations between them for centuries. The rights and obligations of each spouse may have changed overtime (becoming more equal between the sexes) but the tradition has remained. Civil partnerships were introduced as a progressive move for homosexual couples at a time when our laws did not recognise gay marriage. It was not an alternative to marriage but the only option for gay couples who wanted to recognise their relationship and be bound by the same rights and obligations as married couples. Now that gay marriage has at last been legalised, are not civil partnerships now obsolete?
I have not read anything to convince me that civil partnerships offer cohabiting couples anything other than what is available through marriage. The commitment is surely the same and given how creative we can be in a civil ceremony of marriage I struggle to see that the ritual differs. People in support of civil partnerships have suggested that marriage is "sexist" and "patriarchal". How? Surely that's not marriage generally but perhaps specific to certain individuals or couples. It certainly would not be my marriage!
So what if there were children involved, would that change my view? I don't think so. I think our cohabitation law needs reform to recognise and protect the financially vulnerable parent out of wedlock but again, even with children, if people want to cement their relationship or give it "recognition" and/or "protection", they can marry. I still do not see why they need the option of a civil partnership. What difference does it make or am I missing the point entirely?
The difference between civil partnership and marriage is:
i) You solemnise your marriage with words (any words you like in a civil ceremony) but you register your civil partnership with a signature;
ii) Only your father's name is on your marriage certificate whereas both parents names are on a civil partnership certificate (a point to civil partnerships!); and
iii) The grounds to dissolve a civil partnership are the same as to grant a decree to divorce save that you cannot dissolve your civil partnership on the ground of adultery.
I remain unconvinced. I do not believe civil partnerships are needed, they should be scrapped. There are far bigger battles to be had such as, I said above, protecting the truly financially vulnerable people who are cohabiting out of wedlock but this is not all of us and is a different point entirely. Civil partnerships were a token offering while our legislation caught up with society. Beyond that, I just don't get it!"