An article All-embracing partnership Act by Joshua Rozenberg in yesterday’s Telegraph discusses the Civil Partnership Act and previews a lecture to be given later this month on the subject. The article points out that:
As the distinguished family lawyer Stephen Cretney explains in his Clarendon Lectures, to be delivered in Oxford later this month and published by Oxford University Press, the new legislation does not require civil partners to be homosexual or indeed to have a sexual relationship of any kind. They do not even need to live together.
The benefits on offer under the Civil Partnership Act 2004 are available to pretty well any unrelated couple of the same sex aged 16 or over, provided neither of them is already married.
And it goes on to say:
Dr Cretney recognises that friends who simply share common interests may be deterred from registering as partners by the fear that their friends would wrongly assume that they were homosexual. But he points out that no less a body than the Bishops of the Church of England has explained that civil partnership is “not predicated on the intention to engage in a sexual relationship”.
On the difference between this and marriage, it notes that:
…there are significant differences between the two relationships, despite attempts by ministers to suggest otherwise. Unlike marriage, civil partnership law has no problem with promiscuity: although adultery coupled with intolerability opens the door to divorce, sexual infidelity does not provide a basis for dissolving a civil partnership. Similarly, although a marriage is voidable on the ground that either party is incapable of consummating it, there is nothing comparable in the Civil Partnership Act.
Another difference was designed to appease those who believe that “gay marriage” is against God’s law. Although two people of the opposite sex may choose to marry in a place of worship, civil partners have no such choice: the law says that “no religious service is to be used while the civil partnership registrar is officiating at the signing of a civil partnership document”.
The whole article is an excellent summary of the position.
An earlier Guardian article mentioned that the Association of Registration and Celebratory Services in conjunction with the Society of Registration Officers has drafted A CEREMONY FOR CIVIL PARTNERSHIPS for optional use within those local authorities that choose to do so. It’s important to realise that individual local authorities have very considerable discretion in such matters, and also that wholly civil ceremonies not only for births, marriages, and deaths, but also for wedding anniversaries, adoptions, etc. is a fast-growing activity in the UK. This is the context in which this particular draft needs to be seen.