Should heterosexual couples be allowed to enter civil partnerships?

Kathmandu (Pahichan) February 22 – A heterosexual couple who labelled traditional marriage as a “sexist” and “patriarchal” institution, have lost their appeal to enter into a civil partnership.

Londoners Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan argued that being denied the right to enter into a civil partnership – a choice open to same-sex couples – was discriminatory. They say a civil partnership is a more equal arrangement which is not burdened with the “sexist history” of marriage.

We asked people what they thought about the ruling, marriage and whether heterosexual couples should be allowed to enter civil partnerships. Here’s what they said.

‘It highlights the shortsightedness of the original civil partnership legislation’ – Keith, 27, Belfast

As a gay humanist growing up in a single parent family, I’m not the greatest supporter of traditional marriage. I view a lot of it as very dated and very sexist, with too much religious weight when the legal side should be entirely civil.

However, I can’t help but be cynical about civil partnership, as it was clearly designed as a pithy attempt to appease both supporters of LGB equality and staunch traditionalists rather than the thoroughly reevaluated, gender-ignorant civil marriage it could have been.

If I were in the position I think I would struggle to choose between the two. Civil partnership would probably align best with my values, but due to the ongoing issues with the lead party in Stormont using undemocratic means to block same-sex marriage legislation, the possibility of marriage in Northern Ireland adds an extra dimension to the choice for me, as it would symbolise a small victory against the theocratic oppression of the province.

The current state of the law is discriminatory and does nobody any favours, only highlights the shortsightedness of the original civil partnership legislation. Not only would it offer heterosexual couples a modern alternative to traditional marriage and it’s many archaic traditions, it would also lend legitimacy to those same-sex couples currently in civil partnerships.

‘We consider ourselves equal partners, a civil partnership would reflect this in a way that marriage does not’ – Sally, 65, Cambridgeshire

In August we will have been together for 30 years. We would like legal protection but do not want to get married. Traditional marriage carries too much negative historical baggage, especially if you are a woman. We consider ourselves equal partners in our relationship and a civil partnership would reflect this in a way that marriage does not.

We are both in our 60s and increasingly feel that we need legal recognition of our commitment. It seems entirely unfair that same-sex partners have a choice of marriage or civil partnership, while heterosexual partners are denied that choice. I cannot understand why the government is against such equality.

A marriage ceremony, unless one breaks with tradition, includes: taking the groom’s last name and the father giving his daughter into the keeping of another man. The mothers’ names are still not on the marriage certificate, despite David Cameron’s pledge.

I spent my teens and early 20s in South Africa, a very patriarchal society, and fortunately moved to the US in the late 70s at the height of the women’s movement, which was wonderfully eye-opening, liberating and empowering. I probably resolved then that the institution of marriage was unequal, if not in law then often in the eyes of society.

We were in our 30s when we met, so there was less pressure than there would have been if we were in our 20s I think. Families made hopeful remarks from time to time but did not exert pressure. My partner agreed with my opinion of marriage and, like me, would like a civil partnership.

‘A civil partnership would be a much better reflection of an equal, mutual decision to enter into a lifelong legal partnership’ – Juliette, 61, Devon

I am planning to marry in April. My partner is from Germany and he has been a UK resident for more than 20 years. I would much prefer to be entering into a civil partnership and I am very disappointed this is not possible for us as a heterosexual couple. A partnership represents an opportunity to state our commitment to each other. It also means that our financial and legal affairs – including pension entitlements – can be more easily sorted.

I was appalled when we went to register our ‘notice to marry’ that we had to go through out-of-date patriarchal paperwork. I was asked for my father’s name – I explained that he had died more than 20 years ago but my mother is still alive … that unfortunately is absolutely irrelevant. The registrar was sympathetic.

I am a single parent and as far as I can see, should my son choose to marry he will have no name of a parent entered in the paperwork as I do not count! This is exactly why I feel to uncomfortable about my forthcoming marriage. We live at separate addresses – which will not change in the short term – and of course I have no intention of changing my name. A civil partnership would be a much better reflection of an equal, mutual decision to enter into a life long legal partnership.

I believe a civil partnership should come with all the necessary legal entitlements and protections as marriage. One legal friend of mine says the problem with civil partnerships is that they are not universally recognised, which can make for difficulties.

‘I associate marriage and the terms ‘wife’ and ‘husband’ with subjugation’ – Rachel, late-30s, Grantham

To me, marriage means patriarchy with fathers giving away daughters, only fathers’ names and professions appearing on the certificate and not mothers’, and with many women still choosing to change their names. Even though there are now civil ceremonies, I associate marriage and the terms ‘wife’ and ‘husband’ with religion which I view as another kind of subjugation.

Heterosexual couples should be allowed to enter civil partnerships because those that don’t want to get married, due to marriage’s patriarchal and religious associations, should still be able to obtain the same protection and benefits under the law. A civil partnership means a fair agreement between two people that entitles them to legal protection and benefits as a couple. For example, the right to benefit from the other’s pension without having to be named as a beneficiary, and to claim the marriage tax allowance, without any historical connections to religion or gender inequality.

As someone in a long-term relationship, I realise that, because we’re not married, if anything serious happened to either of us, the other could be left vulnerable. If a civil partnership were an option, we would definitely consider it.

‘To not be allowed enter into a civil partnership is to discriminate’ – Ellen Teresse, 54, London

My partner and I have been together for 17 years but aren’t married, and don’t believe in marriage. I would prefer to have a civil partnership as I was brought up a Catholic and abhor all that Catholic marriage stands for and what I have witnessed through my family’s ties. We would like to enter into a civil partnership to protect our joint finances and our home.

Traditional marriage means church and religion, which I don’t believe in. Civil partnership means protection for all we have built up together should one of us die. We both have unscrupulous families that would leave the other partner bereft!

To not be allowed enter into a civil partnership is to discriminate. This is to do with money. So many government forms treat couples as civil partners when in fact they don’t have the rights to their pensions, for example, so it’s a one way street. Working tax credit makes you apply as a couple which they refer to as a civil partnership when it is not!

‘I truly believe that separation of church and state is most relevant’ – Charl Engela, 57, Oxford

As to what should happen given our current circumstances, I would have to answer that I do believe heterosexual couples should be allowed to enter civil partnerships, but it is a very poor system that permits two forms of domestic partnership side-by-side, only one of which is available to everyone.

I truly believe that separation of church and state is most relevant as far as marriage is concerned. A marriage is, or should be, a contract of domestic partnership between two consenting adults. Whether or not this is approved by some religious organisation such as a church is entirely up to the wishes of the couple and the rules of the church, but the two authorities – church and state – should not be conflated.

Couples should only be able to get married in a state registry office. Any two adults should be allowed to do that. If they then want to have the union blessed, they can get it done in a church. But they don’t have to. This gets rid of two issues. One being that churches no longer have the problem of considering whether to marry same-sex couples, because they would no longer have the right to actually ‘marry’ anyone at all. They can only bless unions they approve of, and no one should deny them the right to set those rules. Two, that there is only one form of domestic partnership, and it can only be ratified by the state. It’s how it works in France, and it really does make perfect sense.

‘Every person of legal age should have the same opportunities as the next’ – Chris Lochhead, 31, Scotland

Marriage or civil partnership, to me, means lifelong commitment and monogamy with another person, which is recognised socially and legally.

Whilst I accept the complainants view that marriage is a projection of a patriarchal society, the level of equality today compared to even 30 years ago is so far removed that it is unfair to compare a marriage then to now. Just a society and laws have moved on, so has the practice of marriage. I still feel marriage is a more established and traditional form of partnership, and I especially enjoy the moving away from the preconceived ‘roles’ each gender plays in that.

Under laws of discrimination, every person of legal age should have the same opportunities as the next with regards to their choice of partnership. In my mind, there should be no barrier to homosexual couples being married or engaging in civil partnership, and I expect the same for heterosexual couples. I can’t help feel like the judges bottled it today, particularly knowing their sympathy for the complainants and agreement the law had to change. If ever there was a time for precedent, this was it.

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