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Civil Partnership - Implementation

Sunday, July 31, 2005

The following article was written for the magazine of the Registrar Service, the people who will be officiating when the registration of people’s civil partnerships becomes law in December.


As the new Deputy Minister for Women and Equality it is a pleasure to pick up the work on civil partnership from Jacqui Smith. Jacqui did an excellent job in piloting the legislation through Parliament and I am committed, as Jacqui was, to the legislation being introduced as soon as possible. I am looking forward to seeing the first civil partnership registrations just before Christmas.


This is important to me because I know that civil partnership will make a big difference to many people’s lives. It is about giving equal dignity and recognition to thousands of same-sex couples whose relationships have often been invisible in the eyes of the law. I know that there are many couples up and down the country planning their civil partnership already because they want their relationships recognised.


Janet and Ione, a couple from London who plan to register on day one, told us - “When couples are not protected by law, especially same-sex couples, they are treated like second class citizens and do not have essential rights. There are many examples of same-sex couples left destitute after a partner’s death. If their partner goes to hospital they are in the risk of not being treated as his or her next of kin.”’


The Civil Partnership Act

The Civil Partnership Act will, for the first time, directly address many of these injustices. Same-sex couples that register a civil partnership will have parity of treatment in a wide range of legal matters with married couples. For many couples, this is another important reason for getting registered.


Paul from Liverpool also plans to register with his partner on the 21 December and for them, “the main reasons for registering a civil partnership is to avoid complication with inheritance, pension rights and hospital visiting rights.”


The legal rights and responsibilities of civil partners will include:

  • A duty to provide reasonable maintenance for a civil partner and any children of the family;
  • Ability to apply for parental responsibility for a civil partner’s child;
  • The same tax treatment as spouses, including inheritance tax;
  • Equality in respect of employment and pension benefits;
  • Same rights as spouses to inherit a tenancy agreement;
  • Equitable treatment for the purposes of assessment for child support and social security benefits;
  • Recognition under intestacy rules;
  • Recognition for immigration and nationality purposes;
  • Same tax treatment as spouses.  

Role of the Registration Service

Registrars and the Registration Service will of course play a very important role in the introduction of civil partnership, as the people who will carry out civil partnership registrations. Couples are already looking to Registrars for guidance about making arrangements for their big day. I know that there have already been many queries from members of the public about the new legislation and the level of public interest will increase as the implementation date comes closer. 


In particular, I know that many couples are keen to make arrangements to register their civil partnership as soon as possible. The register office in Brighton alone has received for the first two weeks 86 provisional bookings for notices of civil partnerships. Liverpool Register Office already has over 70 enquiries from same-sex couples. Janet Taubman, Superintendent Registrar and Partnerships Register Manager at Liverpool Register Office said: “I have been providing several same-sex couples with information on Civil Partnerships. It’s very exciting to have a role in administering this new act. I’m very pleased to be able to play a part in such a socially significant change in legislation.” I am also delighted to see that the register office in my own hometown of Sheffield has provisionally booked 21 couples for a civil partnership.


I am pleased that so many registrars across the country are pro-actively making arrangements with couples for civil partnership. I am sure that more and more local offices will start to take bookings over the next couple of months.


In the run up to the Act being introduced, Registrars will be sent more detailed information about the Act and how it is going to operate. The General Register Office will be running training for Registration Service staff to ensure that it is fully prepared for the legislation coming into force. The Department for Trade and Industry will also be putting out general information about the Civil Partnership Act and how to go about registering to members of the public and those affected by the legislation.


The Civil Partnership Act will make a big difference to the lives of many same-sex couples, some of whom have lived together as partners for a very long time and have lacked the basic legal recognition for their relationship which opposite-sex couples obtain through marriage. Civil Partnership will address this problem by providing them with a means, for the first time, of achieving this recognition. The Registration Service has an important role to play in delivering this.



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