Civil partnerships: Marriage rights have created an inequality

Heterosexual couple, Ian Goggin and Kristin Skarsholt pose with Peter Tatchell, after being refused a civil partnership Getty Images


PETER TATCHELL | The Independent | December 18, 2015

Civil partnerships were an important, valued advance. From 2005, for the first time in the UK, same-sex couples were able to secure legal recognition and rights. Previously, their relationships did not exist in the eyes of the law. This meant that lesbian and gay partners were not legally recognised as next-of-kin, which often caused huge distress and disadvantage in the event of one of them being hospitalised or dying.

Despite their benefits, civil partnerships were not equality. They enshrined (and still enshrine) pension inheritance discrimination. In the event of a civil partner dying, the surviving partner does not have the same right as a married heterosexual person to inherit their deceased partner’s full pension. This can leave them much worse off financially.

Moreover, civil partnerships were, in part, introduced to avoid having to concede the demand for same-sex marriage. They created a segregated, mutually exclusive two-tier system of relationship law: marriages for opposite-sex couples only, and civil partnerships for same-sex couples only.

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