Civil partnerships

Understanding civil partnership laws in the UK

As a gay or lesbian couple, you desire the same rights as heterosexual couples when it comes to building a family and creating a home where you feel safe and comfortable. Fortunately, the Civil Partnership Act that formally took effect in 2005 enables you to do so, and changes to that law in 2011 broadens your spectrum of rights.

In order to exercise your rights, however, you must first know what they are and stay informed on the evolving issue of civil partnerships. Here are the basics.

Civil Partnerships: What benefits do they include?

Civil partnerships in the UK have been designed to extend nearly the same rights as marriage does to heterosexual couples. These rights include domestic violence protections, inheritance tax exemptions, benefits for social security and pension, inclusion of both partners in tenancy contracts, next of kin rights, and the right to apply for responsibility for a partner’s children.
What’s the difference between a civil partnership and a marriage?

There are a few differences that can be highlighted when comparing the two legally-recognized relationships. Civil partnerships are created when the two parties involved sign official documents, rather than when they recite marriage vows. Also, during the dissolution of a civil partnership, adultery is not officially recognized as a reason to end the relationship. Though civil partners have pension rights in most cases, some private plans may not choose to recognize the relationship.

What are the latest changes regarding the legality of civil partnerships?

Civil partnerships were first legalized in November 2004 (taking effect officially a year later in December 2005). However, recent legislation, passed at the end of 2011, has broadened the recognitions for same-sex couples under the law.
When the Civil Partnership Act was passed, it stipulated that same-sex couples could not incorporate a religious ceremony (which included the use of symbols or music) into their formation of a civil partnership, nor could the ceremony take place at a religious venue. The new legislation relaxes these restrictions, allowing civil partnership ceremonies to be performed in religious dwellings. However, religious symbols and music are still forbidden.

Where in the world are civil partnerships recognized?

If you are making plans to spend time outside of the UK on holiday or move to a different country, the best way to find out if your travel plans will be affected by the recognition of your civil partnership (or lack of recognition) is to call or email the UK embassy in your travel destination to ask questions. In general, other countries that recognize civil unions are apt to honour your partnership.
The legal landscape of rights for same-sex couples continues to change. In March 2012, the UK government began a consultation concerning how to open the path for both gay and straight couples to have identical rights for civil partnerships and marriage. If you need legal advice concerning family issues surrounding a civil partnership, contacting a family law firm like Irwin Mitchell might be a good idea.

To find out more about the legal rights granted to civil partnerships, visit




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