Written evidence submitted by Minister for Equalities [HAB0265]
The Government is keen to ensure that there are no barriers to couples who wish to enter a legally-recognised relationship. We know that there have historically been many opposite-sex couples who cohabited but chose not to marry, for a variety of reasons. Until recently these couples were faced with the challenge of potentially supporting a family, but without the security or legal protection that married couples or same-sex civil partners enjoyed.
Since the Civil Partnership (Opposite-Sex Couples) Regulations came into force in December 2019, both opposite-sex and same-sex couples in England and Wales have been able to choose how they formalise their relationship; with all couples now able to opt for a civil partnership or a marriage.
The UK Government has additionally introduced similar regulations in Northern Ireland, meaning that since January 2020 opposite-sex couples there have also been able to enter civil partnerships.
The introduction of opposite-sex civil partnerships means that those opposite-sex couples who may have been reluctant to enter into a marriage, are now able to form a civil partnership instead, attracting equivalent financial and legal protections to a marriage, and ensuring security for their partner and family.
The regulations also amended legislation relating to children and parenthood, pension entitlements, and financial rights and entitlements, to ensure that, as far as possible, the rights of opposite-sex civil partners match those for same-sex civil partners or where appropriate, opposite-sex married couples.
On the first day that opposite-sex civil partnerships were introduced in England and Wales 167 couples took advantage of the new regulations, with many more doing so since then. The result being that, many previously cohabiting couples and their families, are now able to access the benefits of being in a formalised relationship. A time-limited opportunity for opposite-sex couples to convert their marriage into a civil partnership (thus mirroring the existing facility open to same-sex couples to convert their civil partnership to a marriage) is already available in Northern Ireland, and the Government is committed to introducing a similar time-limited arrangement in England and Wales as soon as Parliamentary time allows.