Partners Task Force for Gay & Lesbian Couples
Demian, director   ||   206-935-1206   ||   ||   Seattle, WA

Table of Contents

Notable Events Legal Marriage Essays Legal Marriage Data Ceremonial Marriage Domestic Partnership
Legal Necessities Relationship Tips Immigration Couples Chronicles Parenting
Inspiration Orientation Basics Surveys Resource Lists Citation Information
Welcome (About) Your Host Copyright Policy Link Policies Search Site

Civil Partnerships
The Great Britain Approach
© April 17, 2008, Demian

“Civil Partnerships” were instituted in Great Britain on November 19, 2004. The “Civil Partnership Act” came into effect on December 5, 2005. It is only available to same-sex couples. The first partnerships took place after the 15-day waiting period had passed.

The partnership law is available in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. British gay men and lesbians living in Australia can take advantage of the status at the consulates without having to fly home to access it.

Included in the Statutory Civil Registration

  • Duty to provide reasonable maintenance for a civil partner and any children of the family
  • Civil partners will be assessed in the same way as spouses for child support
  • Protection from domestic violence
  • Exemption from testifying against each other in court
  • Next-of-kin rights
  • Equitable treatment for the purposes of life assurance
  • Employment and pension benefits
  • Recognition under intestacy rules
  • Access to fatal accidents compensation
  • Recognition for immigration and nationality purposes
  • Exempt from inheritance tax on a partner’s home
  • Overseas legal status treated as civil partners in the U.K.
Same-sex couples sign an official document in front of a registrar and two witnesses.

It may be possible for couples to register at a U.K. consulate in another country if one of them is a U.K. national. However, U.K. consulates will not register civil partnerships if the host country objects, or if a civil union or same-sex marriage is available in that country. Couples should contact the Embassy or High Commission of their country of residence. Couples may be asked to obtain a “no impediment” certificate.

Foreign Nationals

Individuals who are not British citizens, EEA nationals or permanent residents must obtain permission before they can register a CP in the UK. For those who are currently in the UK, this permission is obtained from the Home office and is called a “certificate of approval.” For those outside the UK, this permission is given in a proposed civil partnership visa or a civil partnership visit visa.

U.K. Department of Trade and Industry
News Release (P/2005/061)
21 February 2005

The landmark Civil Partnership Act will be brought into force on 5 December this year. Any couple wishing to form a civil partnership will be able to give notice of their intention to register at a Register Office from that date.

This will allow the first civil partnerships to be formed in time for Christmas on 21 December, after the 15 day waiting period has passed. Some Register Offices in areas such as Brighton, Newcastle, Liverpool, Birmingham and the London Borough of Camden have already started to take expressions of interest from couples interested in forming a civil partnership after the Act comes into force.

Deputy Women and Equality Minister Jacqui Smith said:

“I know how much this legislation means to a great many same-sex couples across the country who are eager to finally get legal recognition for their relationships.

“This legislation is going to make a real difference to these couples and it demonstrates the Government’s commitment to equality and social justice.

“I hope this Act will help create a more equal society. It opens the way to respect, recognition and justice for those who have been denied it for too long.”

The Civil Partnership Act allows same-sex couples to make a formal, legal commitment to each other by forming a civil partnership. At present, same-sex couples have no way of gaining formal legal recognition for their relationship and as a result suffer a range of problems in their everyday lives.

Important rights and responsibilities will flow from entering a civil partnership, helping same-sex couples to organise their lives together.

Provisions in the Act include:

  • Employment and pension benefits
  • Recognition under intestacy rules
  • Access to fatal accidents compensation
  • Recognition for immigration and nationality purposes
  • A duty to provide reasonable maintenance for your civil partner and any children of the family
  • Civil partners to be assessed in the same way as spouses for child support
  • Equitable treatment for the purposes of life assurance
The process of entering into a civil partnership will be administered by the local registration service. On the day of registration, each member of the couple will sign in the presence of the registration officer and two witnesses.

The Act also allows for same-sex couples who have entered legally recognised overseas relationships to be treated as civil partners in the United Kingdom.

There will be a formal, court-based process for dissolution of a civil partnership.

Implementation involves significant changes in many areas, for example in court rules, the registration service as well as training and guidance for employers. These changes will be put in place over the course of this year.

Hotels that offer hospitality for marriages will likely be required to offer the same to same-sex couples because of the Equality Act, activated in October 2006.

Notes to editors:

  1. The Civil partnership Act 2004 received Royal Assent on 18 November 2004. Ministers indicated at that time that it would take around a year to make the necessary arrangments to bring the Act into force.
  2. The UK joins nine EU countries, and some states in the US and Australia, in introducing a form of legally recognised civil partnership registration.

U.K. Department of Trade and Industry
News Release (P2004/425)
19 November 2004
  1. What is a Civil Partnership?
    The Civil Partnership Act will give lesbian and gay couples the option of making a formal lifelong commitment to each other, through a civil registration process similar to that for opposite-sex couples through civil marriage.
    Civil partnership is a new legal relationship available for same-sex couples, 16 years old or over, who are not already in a civil partnership or marriage and who are not closely related.

  2. How will people register as civil partners of each other?
    Civil partnerships will be formed via a secular registration process.
    Civil partners will be able to celebrate their civil partnership in any way they choose after the statutory steps of registration.
    A dissolution process, similar to divorce, will be created to deal with situations where a civil partnership breaks down.

  3. When will people be able to register?
    The Civil Partnership Act is expected to come into effect in about a year.
    Implementation involves significant changes in many areas, for example in court rules, the registration service as well as training and guidance for employers. It is expected that these changes will take about a year to put in place.

  4. What rights and responsibilities will civil partners have?
    Same-sex couples who choose to register as civil partners of each other will access a wide range of both rights and responsibilities. These include serious duties and obligations as well as legal rights and protections. These will include:
    • A duty to provide reasonable maintenance for civil partners and children of the family
    • assessment, in the same way as spouses, for child support
    • employment and pension benefits
    • recognition under intestacy rules
    • access to fatal accidents compensation; and
    • recognition for immigration and nationality purposes.
  5. What about pensions?
    Civil partners will have the right to pass on survivor pensions as married people do. The Civil Partnership Act includes provisions to enable contracted-out pension schemes to be required to provide survivor pensions for civil partners from rights built up all the way back to 1988. This would replicate the current position for widowers.

  6. What about tax?
    For tax purposes civil partners will be treated the same as married couples and any tax consequences will be dealt with in the first available Finance Bill.

  7. Which other Countries have introduced similar schemes?
    Nine EU member states (Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain and Portugal) have some provision for recognizing those in committed same-sex relationships. There are differences in how this has been implemented in different countries. These choices have been for each member state to make. In addition some states in the US and Australia have introduced legally recognized schemes.

  8. Why can’t people who have signed existing partnership registers in towns like London, Manchester and Brighton automatically become Civil Partners?
    The existing schemes do not confer legal rights and responsibilities on the couples who register. Civil Partnership entails very serious long-term commitments with appropriate rights and responsibilities. Couples will have to make a specific choice about entering into this new legal relationship.


Edward Leigh, and other Tory backbenchers, attempted to scuttle the pro-gay bill by expanding it to give siblings who cohabit the same rights as same-sex couples. These tactics came under sustained criticism from MPs on all sides during the debates on the bill in early November 2004.

Senior Conservative backbencher Baroness O’Cathain similarly attempted to widen the bill. She argued that the bill was discriminatory because it would give inheritance and capital gains tax advantages to same-sex couples that were not available to siblings, parents, and children over 18 who looked after each other.

Conservative former Cabinet Minister Lord Tebbit asked the Government “that it will state that it will not make any change to subsequent Budgets to the requirements for inheritance tax, in consequence of this Bill.”

But Home Office Minister Baroness Scotland of Asthal insisted that if the amendment was passed, it would wreck the bill. She clarified her position by telling peers “there is a clear distinction between these provisions and those of marriage. To ask for this bill to be postponed because we cannot deal with the issues would be to perpetuate injustice.”

When asked by Lord Tebbit for a clear explanation of the distinction between civil partnerships as envisaged in the bill and civil marriage, Lady Scotland repled:

“One of the differences is consummation. In relation to marriage, for a marriage to be valid it has to be consummated by one man and one woman and there is a great deal of jurisprudence which tells you exactly what consummation amounts to, partial, impartial, penetration, no penetration.

“If you wish me to give a dissertation on family law I would be happy to do so. There is no provision for consummation in the Civil Partnerships Bill. We do not look at the nature of the sexual relationship, it is totally different in nature.”

Lord Tebbit inquired that if there was no question of consummation in a civil partnership, why couldn’t it be extended to people who have a close family relationships, such as two homosexual brothers?

Lady Scotland replied that it was improper for those related to one another to enter into a relationship, similar to that of marriage.

The amendment moved by Lady O’Cathain was defeated by 136-251, Government majority 115. An attempt by Tory MP Edward Leigh (Gainsborough) to introduce rights for siblings also failed in the Commons by 381 votes to 74, majority 307.

The “Civil Partnership Act” became law on November 19, 2004, and came into effect on December 5, 2005.

On February 21, 2005, Jacqui Smith, the Deputy Minister for Women and Equality, stated:

“I know how much this legislation means to a great many same-sex couples across the country who are eager to finally get legal recognition for their relationships. This legislation is going to make a real difference to these couples and it demonstrates the Government’s commitment to equality and social justice.”
The Royal Navy has become the first branch of the services to say it will welcome lesbian and gay personnel to stay in family quarters once they have registered their unions. The other branches of the military are expected to follow suit.

The navy is also the first to announce an ad campaign to enlist gay and lesbian servicemembers. It has enlisted the help of Stonewall, the civil rights group, to prepare the ads. In addition to the ads, Stonewall will assist the navy in preparing seminars, pamphlets and specific advice for LGBT members of the navy.

On September 12, 2005, the Ministry of Defence confirmed that same-sex couples serving in the armed forces will be given married quarters after the institution of civil partnerships.

December 21, 2005 statement from Tony Blair, Prime Minister, United Kingdom:
      “Why We Should All Share in These Celebrations”

Civil Partnerships became legal in Scotland in December 2005.

As of January 31, 2006, same-sex couples formed 3,648 civil partnerships in England and Wales. Of this total, male couples formed 2,510 civil partnerships, and female couples formed 1,138. Brighton and Hove was the Registration Authority where most civil partnerships were formed (126). Second most popular was Westminster (121), followed by Kensington and Chelsea (105).

As of mid-June 2006, 6,516 couples in England and Wales, and 350 couples in Scotland, obtained a Civil Partnership. In England and Wales, 4,311 couples were male and 2,205 female.

In the first quarter of 2006, a total of 259 partnerships were registered in Scotland. By the end of 2006, it totalled 315. About half of those registering were female.

Between December 2005 and September 2006, 15,672 gay and lesbian couples registered as civil partnerships in the UK, according to the Office of Statistics. England staged 84% of all ceremonies, while Northern Ireland held 1%. Men make up 62% of partnerships in England, 57% in Scotland, 56% in Northern Ireland and 51% in Wales.

In early December 2006, Peter Tatchell, of OutRage, called on Chancellor Gordon Brown to protect the benefit rights of gay men and lesbians in his pre-Budget report. Rule changes introduced when the Partnership Act became law have resulted in the removal of social security benefits from thousands of same-sex partners who have not, or don’t plan to register in a civil partnership.

The government has hit these couples with the full financial responsibilities that go with civil partnerships, even though the couples are not civil partners, and do not want to be treated as civil partners. Government ministers are refusing to grant benefit claimants in cohabiting same-sex relationships transitional financial protection.

Potential Negatives

The gay rights group OutRage! has suggested that two people living together and receiving individual government pensions would see their benefits drop by about a third if they were re-categorized as a couple. The group stated on November 7, 2005:

“All cohabiting same-sex couples will experience a reduction in state benefits as a side effect of the new Civil Partnership Act. … Even couples who don’t want a civil partnership and have not registered their relationship will face cuts. In addition, same-sex friends or ex-lovers who live together will have to prove that they are not in a relationship — otherwise they, too, will lose out financially. … The pensions and benefits agencies will assume that all cohabitees are partners and cut their benefits accordingly.”
Not a Model for Family Recognition in U.S.

This domestic partnership status does not work as a model for America, because implementing an equivalent legal status to marriage requires duplicating 150-to-350 laws in each state, and more than 1,138 laws on the federal level. [See U.S. Federal Laws for the Legally Married.] The whole idea is completely impractical.

Further, domestic partnerships are usually not recognized outside of the issuing state. Because of the lack of portability, they create a patchwork legal status as a couple moves or vacations.

While such contracts are an attempt to create equal treatment, they only reinforce a separate and totally unequal status, one we consider to be a manifestation of apartheid. [See Marrying Apartheid: The Failure of Domestic Partnership Status]

U.K. Resources

From UK Lesbian & Gay Immigration Group:

      “Civil Partnership Guide”

From the official, government Web sites:

      “Civil Partnerships - Introduction” - from the General Register Office

      “Civil Partnership: Leaflets and Guidance” - from Women and Equality Unit (WEU)

Governments that offer Full Legal Marriage

    Netherlands (2001)
    Belgium (2003)
    Canada (2005)
    Spain (2005)
    South Africa (2005)
    Norway (2009)
    Sweden (2009)
    Iceland (2010)
    Argentina (2010)
    Portugal (2010)
    Denmark (2012)
    France (2013)
    New Zealand (2013)
    Brazil (2013)
    Uruguay (2013)
    New Zealand (2013)
    United Kingdom
      (England, Wales, Scotland) (2013)
    Luxembourg (2014)
    Finland (2014)
    Ireland (2015)
    United States (2015)
    Colombia (2016)
    Germany (2017)
    Taiwan (2017)
    Malta (2017)
US States & Territories

    Massachusetts (2004)
    California (2008)
    Connecticut (2008)
    Iowa (2009)
    Vermont (2009)
    New Hampshire (2009)
    District of Columbia (2009)
    New York (2011)
    Maine (2012)
    Washington (2012)
    Maryland (2013)
    Rhode Island (2013)
    Delaware (2013)
    Minnesota (2013)
    Illinois (2013)
    Utah (2013)
    New Jersey (2013)
    Hawaii (2013)
    New Mexico (2013)
    Michigan (2014) - stayed pending legal challenge
    Oregon (2014)
    Wisconsin (2014)

    Arkansas (2014) - stayed pending legal challenge
    Pennsylvania (2014)
    Indiana (2014)
    Nevada (2014)
    Virginia (2014)
    Oklahoma (2014)
    Idaho (2014)
    West Virginia (2014)
    Alaska (2014)
    Arizona (2014)
    Wyoming (2014)
    Kansas (2014) - stayed pending legal challenge
    Florida (2014)
    Colorado (2014)
    North Carolina (2014)
    South Carolina (2014)
    Montana (2014)
    Alabama (2015)
    U.S. Supreme Court (June 26, 2015):
      Ruling: All U.S. States must now
      allow same-sex couples the
      freedom of legal marriage.
Native American Tribes

    Coquille Tribe, Oregon (2009)
    Mashantucket Pequot, Connecticut (2011)
    Suquamish Tribe, Washington (2011)
    Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, Washington (2013)
    Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, Minnesota (2013)
    Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, Michigan (2013)
    Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians, Michigan (2013)
    Santa Ysabel Tribe, California (2013)
    Confederated Tribes of the Colville Nation, Washington (2013)
    Cheyenne, Oklahoma (2013)
    Arapaho, Oklahoma (2013)
    Leech Lake Tribal Court, Minnesota (2013)
    Puyallup Tribe, Washington (2914)
    Wind River Indian Reservation, Wyoming (2014)
    Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, Michigan, (2014)
    Colville Confederated Tribes, Washington (2014)
    Central Council of Tlingit, Alaska (2015)
    Haida Indian Tribes, Alaska (2015)

Return to: Partners: Table of Contents