Thinking Anglicans

Civil partnerships extended to opposite-sex couples

Updated

Both Houses of Parliament have now approved The Civil Partnership (Opposite-sex Couples) Regulations 2019. The regulations will come into force no later than 2 December.

There is an accompanying Explanatory Memorandum.

There is also an extremely helpful House of Commons Library briefing paper, Civil partnership for opposite sex couples (full text available as a PDF here).

This change applies only to England and Wales. It is for the Scottish Parliament to decide on whether to do this in Scotland too, but the Scottish Government has introduced a bill to do so.

The regulations do not permit opposite-sex couples who enter a civil partnership to subsequently convert their relationship into a marriage (as is the case for same-sex couples). The Government has conducted a separate consultation on conversion rights generally, but has not yet announced the outcome of that, or decided what actions it will take. Further regulations relating to this may be made in 2020.

The position of the Church of England on this new form of civil partnership has not yet been announced.  I will update this post when it does. But it does seem unlikely that the policy statement of 2005 can be applied unchanged now.

There is further discussion of these regulations at Law and Religion UKCivil partnerships, marriage registration, stillbirths – update.

And Russell Sandberg has written Religion and Opposite Sex Civil Partnerships: An Update.

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Marian Birch
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Marian Birch

Isn’t the crunch issue for the C of E with heterosexual civil partnerships that official current requirement that those in such relationships are officially sexually celibate? That requirement will surely be even more difficult to argue for now that there are opposite sex civil partnerships. I could write more – but this is surely the crux point for the ‘official’ church.

peter kettle
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peter kettle

Simon notes: ‘I will update this post when it does. But it does seem unlikely that the policy statement of 2005 can be applied unchanged now’.

One area that can be readily updated is the claim in 2005 that ‘by 2010 11,000 – 22,000 civil partnerships may have been registered’.

Depending how you interpret ‘by’ 2010, the actual figures extracted from figure 1 (excel spreadsheet version) in section 4 of https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/marriagecohabitationandcivilpartnerships/bulletins/civilpartnershipsinenglandandwales/2018 are 43,149 (if calculating by the end of 2010) or 37,345 (by the start of 2010).

Kurt Hill
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Kurt Hill

Another nail in the coffin of AMiE.

Richard
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Richard

Won’t this embolden AMIE? One more reason to vilify liberal secularism and heterodox CofE, no?

Kurt Hill
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Kurt Hill

Perhaps you are right, Richard. You probably have a better feel than I for the current situation in England. As an American Episcopalian I would hope that certain folks in the UK would realize that the flow of history is going against such fundamentalist sectarianism. One would hope that they would do what they can to avoid being viewed as a curiosity, rather than a serious religious perspective.

Richard
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Richard

Kurt… I doubt that I have a better feel than you for the situation in England. My ZIP code is 11231. 🙂

Kurt Hill
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Kurt Hill

Oh, sorry. I tend to assume most folks who post here are from the Anglican Churches of the United Kingdom rather than us Yanks, or Canadians, etc. These splinter Anglican groups are fighting against history. In the West women are not going back into die Küche, and gays are not going back into the closet. Just as people of color are not going back into the back of the bus. Religious denominations such as ACNA and AMiE are increasing looked upon as throwbacks to a more embarrassing era by the upcoming generations. .. …One does wonder, though, given these continued… Read more »

Stanley Monkhouse
Guest

Kurt: “there are plenty of us in The Episcopal Church who would like to see our aid monies directed to more forward looking Anglican tendencies in GAFCON countries …” .Well, stop dithering and get on with it. I’ll support you. WWJD? He wouldn’t dither. He was not a ditherer. He’d JFDI: just … do it.

Stanley Monkhouse
Guest

“The position of the Church of England on this new form of civil partnership has not yet been announced”. Why does it matter what the C of E thinks? Who will care?

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer

Indeed. The issue of the CofE’s opinion on same-sex civil partnerships mattered somewhat, because (at the time of their introduction) they were the only form of state-recognised relationship open to same-sex couples. They were in almost every other way marriage, so issues of (for example) “what does it mean if a priest enters into a civil partnership?” or “should we bless civil partnerships?” were proxies for the whole issue of same-sex relationships and same-sex marriage. Because they were the only thing approximating marriage available to same-sex couples, they were of interest to people involved in the CofE. In the case… Read more »

James Byron
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James Byron

Yes, this is a non-issue. It’s likely that civil partnerships only continue to exist in England ’cause the CoE don’t want to deal with the stark choice between accepting gay couples marrying or forcing them to have no security. Since introducing equal marriage, most countries have either merged civil unions with marriage, or frozen new ones. When England at last banishes discrimination from her state church (or just throws up her hands and disestablishes it) the same will happen there.

Jo B
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Jo B

What’s your reasoning for them still existing in Scotland, then?

James Byron
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James Byron

Civil partnerships were introduced UK-wide: Holyrood waved through a legislative consent motion and left it to the Westminster Parliament. That being so, it’s probably more trouble than it’s worth to try and wrap them up in Scotland.

RPNewark
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RPNewark

The fact that marriage legislation is devolved to the Scottish Parliament?

As noted above, the Scottish government has introduced a bill to effect the same changes to the law there.

Don’t hold your breath for any changes in Northern Ireland.

Jim Pratt
Guest
Jim Pratt

Quebec has Civil Unions, initially created in 2002 for same-sex couples, but since equal marriage came in 2004, they have been open to all couples (except persons under 18, who may marry with judicial permission, but may not enter a civil union, and most clergy cannot celebrate civil unions). The legal aspects are the same as for marriage, so it’s really a choice of terminology. Because of the Quiet Revolution, which included a revolt against the Roman hierarchy, some Quebecers choose civil unions as a way of rejecting the traditional (conservative catholic) understanding of marriage. Quebec is now a post-Christian… Read more »

FrDavid H
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FrDavid H

I agree Fr Stanley. We are too full of our own self-importance.

Helen King
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Helen King

Indeed. Many years ago when I was on General Synod and the TV companies (complete with special lighting) were in the public gallery pointing at the debating chamber, a speaker declared with just such self-importance “The eyes of the world are upon us!” As he finished the sentence, all the lights were turned off.

Father Ron Smith
Guest

I’m all for contracted relationships that enable couples to live together in faithfulness to one another. This is a social good!

Simon Maxwell
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Simon Maxwell

I’m sorry, but what has this got to do with ‘faithfulness’? Being in a marriage or ‘civil partnership’ does not prevent people from being unfaithful to one another. The only reasons that ‘civil partnerships’ for heteros have been introduced are that a few thousand hetero idiot couples complained that marriage was part of the ‘wicked patriarchy’ or that they wanted the benefits of marriage without being married or that poor old heteros were being discriminated against. In any case, marriage as an institution is dying. Marriage rates are now half what they were 40 years ago. In a couple of… Read more »

Stanley Monkhouse
Guest

Simon M writes “Being in a marriage … does not prevent people from being unfaithful to one another.” Not long ago I was visited by someone wanting a copy of the marriage cert. The commonest reason for this in my experience is divorce. I said I hoped all was well and was told that it was not. I’d “married” them after they’d been together for years and had had two children. That marriage lasted 9 months. Most of “my” marriages were of couples already with children/stepchildren. Why most people bother with church weddings is beyond me. In about 100 weddings… Read more »

FrDavid H
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FrDavid H

Surely the main reason to hang on to Church weddings is for the diocese to receive fees.

Susannah Clark
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Susannah Clark

I think a wedding in church is a truly lovely thing. A sharing with your community, your family, your friends. And, if you have faith, the making of vows and pledge before God. Especially where a church is your place of worship, and you’re making these sacred vows to the woman you love, in a giving of each other, a covenant, and you’re publicly giving yourselves in the presence of God. In addition, the giving of yourselves to each other as a couple… is also a gifting of yourselves as a couple to your community, gathered there. As for banns,… Read more »

peterpi - Peter Gross
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peterpi - Peter Gross

You make good points, but, My wife is Roman Catholic–>Episcopalian and I’m Jewish but like liberal Episcopal churches. I respect Jesus of Nazareth’s message in the gospels of love and social justice. We met when she joined the choir of the Episcopal cathedral I was singing in. Christianity has a much richer history of choral music than Judaism does. We didn’t get married for a long time. Neither one of us had kids and we’re both old enough not to want to raise any. When we did decide to get married, because we liked the idea of publicly stating our… Read more »

Stanley Monkhouse
Guest

“God is wherever people let God in”. SPOT ON

Kate
Guest
Kate

“Being in a marriage or ‘civil partnership’ does not prevent people from being unfaithful to one another.”

The opposite is true too. Just because a couple are not married doesn’t excuse being unfaithful. Formal, contracted marriage was long about property and even today is about tax. It is sad that the Church thinks tax status is more important than any commitment a couple makes to lives in harmony together.

Simon Dawson
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Simon Dawson

Simon. Many years ago, when I worshipped at St James Church Piccadilly, my then partner (now husband) and I created a “service of blessing and covenant” in which we sealed our relationship. The Archdeacon had told our rector that this sort of service would be fine (in fact it was what the church should be doing) but that we should not be seen to “ape” a wedding service. Therefore we were forced to go back to fist principles and decide for our self what was important our relationship and what should be contained in the service. (http://www.simondawson.com/blessing/blessphot.htm) At the time… Read more »

peter kettle
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peter kettle

Thank you, Simon, for that moving and sensitive response to some of the comments above. My partner and I decided not to convert to marriage, as we feel CP, as crafted by us, expressed the nature of our relationship well enough without the shadows and baggage of ‘marriage’. I officiated at the marriage of my god-daughter earlier this year, and while she and her partner prepared and crafted the whole event themselves (within the confines of CofE permissibility) it still had those shadows of patriarchy, ‘taking possession’ and language which ‘marriage’ seems unable to shake off. I hope that civil… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
Guest

That’s a moving story, Simon. Thank you.

Cynthia Katsarelis
Guest

That’s really lovely, Simon. Thank you for sharing your story and the link to the liturgy. Blessings!

James Byron
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James Byron

“In any case, marriage as an institution is dying.”

Is this any surprise? On practical grounds, the perks of marriage are being whittled away while, thanks to the spread of no-fault divorce, the risks are potentially ruinous. The cost-benefit analysis is poor for all but the most committed couples (and maybe even them). If only those who rail against equal marriage had put a tenth of the effort into upholding the institution as a whole.

John Wallace
Guest
John Wallace

My wife and I were married 46+ years ago, in a Baptist Church with a Registrar in attendance. It was simply a matter of a) putting our future relationship on a legal footing and b) to invoke the blessing of God on our future together in the presence of our friends. Nothing magic, nothing sacramental except as an outward sign of what we were committing ourselves to, That’s what we wanted to do as Christians. The pious rubbish that generally surrounds the idea of marriage for the wider community and then declares that the decline of marriage is a sign… Read more »

Interested Observer
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Interested Observer

The claim that divorce law is a reason to not marry is a popular trope amongst mens’ rights activists and horrible Incel/MGTOW people on reddit. It has little basis in fact. Virtually without exception the people who were left in penury by divorce were women, and it was easy (to cite an example from my own life) for men with large pensions to walk away from marriages in which their wife had not worked while she raised their (note the plural pronoun) children leaving them with income at the threshold of poverty. That has been redressed. That is a good… Read more »

James Byron
Guest
James Byron

I never mentioned gender! A fault-based regime can come down hard on appalling treatment of women (or anyone else). As revealed in the name, the entire point of no-fault divorce is that a spouse’s conduct has zero bearing on the outcome: this applies equally to men who’ve behaved disgracefully, as more and more are discovering when they use the laws to their advantage. It’s not inherently feminist. Having the stomach churning view of women that they do, the MGTOW mob are paranoid about anything that could be turned against them: has zero bearing on the merits of a particular model… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest

My response was on the basis that a ‘contracted’ relationship has, potentially, more going for it than promiscuous casual sex, which is a problem for society.

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

I think if a non-believing couple in the community want to be married by a priest in church, then – of course with the proviso that they and their guests are respectful to the location and the occasion – it is a really lovely thing. We know very well that in our increasingly secular society church attendance is dropping and the link between church and wider community is becoming more fragile. The fact that many non-religious people still have some sense that marriage in church is appropriate, with its ritual, and society’s historic sense that church and marriage are in… Read more »