This Government want to see more people joined in a legal union, in the way they want, with the person they love. Greater commitment leads to greater family stability, and greater security within relationships helps to protect children’s interests.
That is why the Prime Minister announced last October that we would extend civil partnerships to opposite-sex couples. Since then, the Government supported the Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths (Registration etc.) Act 2019, brought forward by my hon. Friend the Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton), through the parliamentary process.
The Act paves the way for opposite-sex couples to form civil partnerships. Now we are preparing to make those rights a reality through the supporting secondary legislation.
Today we have published a paper entitled “Implementing Opposite-Sex Civil Partnerships: Next Steps”, setting out how we intend to implement opposite-sex civil partnerships by the end of this year. This includes important issues such as parental responsibility and parenthood, financial benefits and entitlements and the protections we intend to put in place for religious organisations in relation to civil partnerships. The Government have already sought views from key stakeholders on most of these issues. We intend, wherever appropriate, to extend existing rights that apply to same-sex civil partners or opposite-sex married couples to opposite-sex civil partners. This document is not, therefore, a formal consultation.
The issue on which we are keen to hear views is conversion into and out of marriage. We know that there are some opposite-sex married couples who would have preferred to form a civil partnership, had this option been available to them, and may therefore wish to convert their marriages to a civil partnership. We are seeking views on proposals to introduce a new right for opposite-sex couples to convert from a marriage to a civil partnership for a limited period of time, before bringing this and the existing right for same-sex couples to convert from a civil partnership to marriage to an end. In this way, couples will have an opportunity to choose the relationship that best suits them, following which marriage and civil partnership will be once and for all established as two distinct and different legal unions by ending movement between them. Our consultation on conversion rights “Civil Partnerships: The Future of Conversion Rights” has also been published today and runs until 20 August.
I have placed copies of the documents in the Library of the House.
We are firmly committed to changing the eligibility requirements for civil partnerships by the end of the year at the latest. Our aim is that opposite-sex couples will be able to register and form civil partnerships by the end of this year. Any substantive changes on conversion are likely to follow in 2020, after the consultation exercise.