Thinking Anglicans

Church of England opposes end to civil partnerships

The British government has reported that previous consultations on the future of civil partnerships were inconclusive. It has therefore issued this: The Future Operation of Civil Partnership: Gathering Further Information.

This raises the possibility of opening civil partnerships to opposite-sex couples or of abolishing civil partnerships for the future. Here’s how the document begins:

  1. The Civil Partnership Act 2004 enabled same-sex couples to obtain legal recognition of their relationship by registering a civil partnership at a time when marriage for same-sex couples was not available. The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 allowed same-sex couples to enter a marriage from 29 March 2014, or convert their civil partnership into a marriage from 10 December 2014.
  2. The Government has consulted twice on the continued operation of civil partnerships: in 2012 during the passage of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, and again in 2014. In those consultations, we invited views on three possible options; whether civil partnerships should be:
    – abolished
    – closed to new registrations
    – extended to allow opposite-sex couples to register a civil partnership
  3. Taken together, there was no consensus about how civil partnerships should change. Due to the lack of available evidence in support of any of the above options, and the lack of consensus on a particular change, the Government decided not to make any changes to civil partnerships at the time.
  4. This policy paper sets out how the Government will gather additional information. When this work is completed, the Government should have the information it needs to bring forward proposals for the future of civil partnerships.

The Church Times reports (scroll down) that:

Support for civil partnerships. Civil partnerships should not be abolished, the Church’s Director of Mission and Public Affairs, the Revd Dr Malcolm Brown said this week, after the Government’s Equalities Office suggested that their future was uncertain.

In a paper published last week, the Office says that, if demand for civil partnerships remains low, “this might suggest that same-sex couples no longer see this as a relevant way of recognising their relationships, and that the Government should consider abolishing or phasing out civil partnerships entirely.”

There were 890 civil partnerships registered in 2016 in England and Wales, down from an average of 6305 from 2007 to 2013. The paper says that, by September 2019, a “proportionate amount of evidence” will have been gathered to enable the Office “to be confident in the ongoing level of demand”.

“We believe that Civil Partnerships still have a place, including for some Christian LGBTI couples who see them as a way of gaining legal recognition of their relationship,” Dr Brown said. “We hope [they] will remain an option.”

We recently published an article reporting on how civil partnerships had been viewed in 2007: Civil Partnerships: a look back at 2007.

Michael Sadgrove has drawn attention to an even earlier article we published, in 2006: civil partnerships: another bishop’s view.

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BernardJeremy PembertonJames PrattNeil PattersonErika Baker Recent comment authors
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crs
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crs

“There were 890 civil partnerships registered in 2016 in England and Wales, down from an average of 6305 from 2007 to 2013…”

Cathy
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Cathy

I know at least two heterosexual couples who would like a civil partnership but not marriage. This also should be an option.

robert ian williams
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robert ian williams

This is a devious attempt to avoid the gay marriage debate within the Church of England as it could affect their status as an established church.Its like the Salvation Army saying we oppose alcohol but will allow officers who drink shandy.

Interested Observer
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Interested Observer

You know those civil partnerships that this bishops put down wrecking amendments to prevent being created? Those ones? We’re dead in favour of them now, so we are. Did you want consistency? Don’t come looking for it here.

Bernard
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Bernard

Given the way this has been going I imagine the only two defensible options for the government will be to abolish civil partnerships altogether or to open them up to all couples regardless of gender. It won’t be possible to sustain any other situation. It will be interesting to see what Church central says when it becomes clear that this is the dichotomy. On the other hand, reading between the lines of the GEO’s statement, my suspicion is that they expect the numbers to continue to fall, well below the 890 per annum figure. That seems likely, doesn’t it, because… Read more »

Bernard
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Bernard

Just to add: It would be good if Dr Brown did some of his own research to discern how many of the 890 CPs in 2016 were actually contacted because the couples in question wanted to adhere to the Church of England’s “policy”. My hunch is not very many but evidence would be interesting.

Richard
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Richard

I believe that the CofE allows clergy to be in a civil partnership, but does not allow same-sex marriage for clergy. If I’m correct, that would certainly be a reason for not wanting to scrap civil partnerships.

Certainly the drop in the number of civil partnerships is due to the legislation allowing for SSM.

Jeremy
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Jeremy

Oh, it’s consistent all right–consistent in the desire to avoid equal marriage.
The culture, however, is leaving the Church behind.
Civil partnerships are now the bone that the Church wants to throw to LGBTQ people.

Interested Observer
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Interested Observer

“I know at least two heterosexual couples who would like a civil partnership but not marriage” So they can get married, and call it a civil partnership if they like. The whole point about civil partnerships was they are marriage in all but name, to pander to reactionaries. There is no point in creating a complex web of things so that a tiny handful of obsessives who think being “unmarried” makes them edgy can get married without their fee-fees being disrupted by the name. Civil Partnerships weren’t, and aren’t, like the French civil pacts, which are marriage-lite with a different… Read more »

Bernard
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Bernard

The reason that CPs have been advocated for opposite-sex couples is to provide a legal framework for those who feel that getting married involves a big party, a lot of expense, etc. By going into a CP they get all the legal status and protections without all the razzmatazz. IO’s last point about couples with strained relationships with parents doesn’t just apply to religious parents or to same-sex couples. Parents might disapprove of a relationship for all sorts of reasons and a CP provides a lower-key way of legally formalising the relationship. The question for the state is whether to… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
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This sounds very much like a ‘stable door’ reaction. Sadly, it may have come too late for the C. of E. They opposed C.P.s before their coming into place. They now accept that – for their current polity – these are a more convenient way of dealing with a demand for S/S/M of members of the Church and would like them to be retained. People are not stupid. They can see through this.

The chickens are coming home to roost – for those in the C. of E. who originally opposed the introduction of CPs.

Colin Coward
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Bernard notes above that “if all existing CPs were automatically converted to marriages the bishops would have an interesting time depriving a number of clergy (including bishops) of their licences.” In 2007 Changing Attitude England undertook research to discover how many members of the Church of England, lay and ordained, had entered a civil partnership. The total number of clergy in a civil partnership was 76. The research was not comprehensive. Some of these clergy will have retired or resigned in the 11 years since then. Others will have contracted a civil partnership both prior to the introduction of equal… Read more »

David Lamming
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David Lamming

The arguments for and against the continuation of civil partnerships (CPs) is more nuanced than this summary of the Government’s consultation paper suggests. As well as considering whether CPs should be extended to allow opposite-sex partners to register a CP, the consultation should consider whether they should be available to those not in a ‘gay’ relationship, e.g. brothers and sisters who live together for mutual support. However, and surprisingly, what no one who has responded to this post has commented on so far is the legitimacy of and authority for Dr Malcolm Brown’s response to the consultation, if correctly reported… Read more »

Kate
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Kate

The timing is bearable for the Church of England. If there was to be a change, it would be in the 2020 Queeen’s Speech and will fall after Lambeth 2020 so the Teaching Document can be published.

However, it is obvious that CPs are moribund, at least for new registrations. If they don’t go this time, then they will go during the next Parliament. The Church needs to be planning for that.

Bernard
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Bernard

David Lamming makes an interesting point about whether CPs should be an option for close relatives. (This was brought up during the original debates about CPs, but, I think, regarded as a “wrecking amendment” at the time.) It would allow an enormous loophole about inheritance tax. If a parent went into a civil partnership with their own child then they could pass their entire estate over free of inheritance tax. It would be really difficult to write a law which allowed civil partnerships between close relatives but somehow didn’t make this possible. I can’t see it being considered seriously. I’m… Read more »

Neil Patterson
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Neil Patterson

There are certainly many new clergy in CPs now, including me, ordinands training with at least six theological colleges, several deans and one bishop, so it is a substantial issue. But caution to all on this thread – there is no mechanism by which clergy entering SSMs can be removed from parish posts – Andrew Foreshew-Cain was not (though he subsequently retired for other reasons), and Jeremy Pemberton was not even stripped of his existing licence in Lincoln – because the disciplinary procedures will not support it. What is true is that S/S/M precludes ordination, or generally new appointments (although… Read more »

Laurie Roberts
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Laurie Roberts

I see the Church of Scotland is contemplating marriage equality in church, at its annual Assembly
!

https://www.pinknews.co.uk/2018/05/20/church-of-scotland-same-sex-marriage-church-religion/

Marshall Scott
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A question from across the pond: are there other dynamics that will also affect this? Prior to the determination that marriage is a right of couples regardless of sexual orientation, there was no national civil partnership in the USA. However, many local municipalities and some states had legal registration of Domestic Partners, with certain rights entailed. One of the important connections there was to allow employer-based insurance to cover the partner. Once marriage was legal, many insurers announced they would no longer provide for Partners, and would expect all couples to be married, providing Spousal coverage. I know the American… Read more »

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

Neil Patterson, I’m not sure you’re 100% right. Andrew FC stayed in post because he had Freehold. I don’t think the position of any priest under Common Tenure is that secure.
And Jeremy was lucky that his bishop in Lincoln did not withdraw his licence or PTO. There is no legal test case as yet to prove that it would be beyond the remit of a more conservative bishop.

Neil Patterson
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Neil Patterson

In response to Erica. True, there has been no test case, but I don’t believe there ever will be, because the bishops are collectively persuaded that it is neither legally nor pastorally advisable to take one. I would not claim to be 100% right on anything, but will let others judge the quality of my book on the history of legal discipline in the CofE to be published later this year. But on the specific points, I am confident: There is no difference between Freehold and Common Tenure as far as the CDM is concerned – the difference is with… Read more »

James Pratt
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James Pratt

Here in Quebec, civil unions were established to give same-sex couples an option, prior to marriage equality. Now, civil unions exist for all couples alongside marriage (with the exception that persons under 18 are excluded; persons age 16 or 17 can marry with judicial approval). The rights are the same as for a married couple, so there is no substantive difference. The small percentage of couples who choose civil unions seem to be those who don’t want the baggage that the word “marriage” carries. (and under law, a clergyperson can under the law officiate a civil union, although I am… Read more »

Jeremy Pemberton
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Jeremy Pemberton

Neil is right, the Bishop of Lincoln told me before I married that he had no intention of taking action against me under the CDM, and he hoped that he would not have to deal with a complaint. He didn’t, as I understand it, have any complaints against my marriage to deal with. The issue is that married clergy, at the moment, are not likely to be licenced or given PTO if they move from an established post they already hold. I don’t think any bishop, not even the most hardline anti-gay, wants to create any more “martyrs” – so… Read more »

Bernard
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Bernard

Many thanks to James Pratt for drawing attention to the situation in Quebec. The statistics for the numbers of marriages and civil unions are available at http://www.stat.gouv.qc.ca/statistiques/population-demographie/mariages-divorces/501b.htm The interesting feature of these data is that the percentage of opposite sex couples opting for civil unions is very stable over time, in the range 0.8% to 1.0% since 2006. On the other hand the percentage of same-sex couples choosing a civil union rather than a marriage is trending downwards. It was around 10% in the period 2004 to 2012, but since then has dropped consistently to a level of about 4%… Read more »