When Will Hetrosexual Civil Partnerships Be Legal in Scotland

Angela Constance, Alexander Stewart and many others spoke about the impact of converting marriages into civil partnerships. I listened with interest to what the Saints had to say, especially the powerful testimony of the opinions of a couple that Ruth Maguire spoke of. In the report of Phase 1 of the bill, the Committee clearly expressed its support for the principle that married couples can change their relationship into a civil partnership. As I said, in line with this recommendation, I intend to take forward discussions with the committee on an amendment reflecting its support for this principle, and this decision has been confirmed by Members` comments today. As many members have said, it is important that we discuss the principles of equality and freedom of choice when we discuss this bill. I believe that provisions allowing married couples to change their relationship into a registered partnership would be consistent with those principles and the bill. I know that couples who are waiting for mixed partnerships may be concerned that implementation will take some time, so I hope that the assurance I have given today that I will implement the law as soon as possible will be of some comfort to them. It has always seemed rather harsh and rather contrary to the general orientation of equality that someone who was in an existing civil partnership should have to dissolve it. For me, a major advantage of the law is that it will deal with it.

Although only a small number of people will benefit, we are talking about an important equality group. There are a number of technical changes in the group. I hope the committee will be patient with me while I review them. Some will argue that if legally the two options are the same, a distinction is not necessary. It`s really about giving couples a choice. Marriage can be perceived as having religious or patriarchal connotations. The institution of marriage may not be an attractive idea for some couples, while formalities and laws may be desirable or even necessary for others. Offering a civil partnership as an option for all couples allows for a legally binding relationship if marriage is not the right choice for them. The bill replicates existing provisions for religious and non-denominational organizations that wish to choose to register same-sex partnerships. We have gathered evidence to suggest that the bill may need to be amended to accommodate additional controls on Jewish clergy who cannot be represented by different branches of Judaism in Scotland. What do you think of this proposal? Amendment 6 also adds a definition of `protected relations abroad` to the GRA.

It is an overseas “protected civil partnership”. Both terms are used in Amendment No 4. Amendment No 5 is merely a formatting change linked to Amendment No 6. The decision prompted Prime Minister Theresa May to announce that marriage law would be amended in England and Wales, with civil partnerships for all to be introduced by the end of this year. However, the Faculty of Advocates and the Law Society of Scotland have pointed out that married couples will not be able to switch to a civil partnership, just as a same-sex couple can currently convert their civil partnership into marriage. I understand that the British Government has consulted on this, but no definitive conclusions have been drawn. I would be happy to investigate this anomaly further. It is clear that the bill enjoys broad support across Scottish civil society.

It is good to know that many groups campaigned vigorously for the law, including many charities and equality groups, who fought long and hard to have their voices heard. It is important that we recognize that, and it is good that they are now receiving that recognition. The bill also responds to the ambitions of the Gender and Human Rights Commission, which set out the desired changes in 2011. I welcome the fact that forced civil partnership is becoming a punishable offence. For the first time, same-sex and opposite-sex civil partnerships are put on an equal footing with married couples in terms of protection. This protection recognizes the legal validity of civil partnerships by stipulating that they must never be exploited or used to cause harm. The bill covers various areas. However, as I mentioned before, for the most part, it simply follows what already applies to same-sex civil partnerships, or adapts the law if necessary. This means that the bill is largely an amendment that amends other laws to apply existing provisions previously discussed and approved by Parliament to mixed civil partnerships. This approach ensures that, after the establishment of mixed civil partnerships in Scotland, mixed partnerships benefit from the same body of law as already applies to civil same-sex partnerships, without this leading to unequal treatment. I do not know exactly, but that was in 2004, 16 years ago. My feeling is that the desire for a civil partnership for mixed couples is a more recent movement.

There was no campaign to that effect and there is no record of anyone in 2004 doing what we have done in the last two years. I don`t know exactly, but I think it just wasn`t a topic of conversation. In practice, there are different forms of civil status. When people die, they have to serve as informants. There is a lot of basic information and data that we collect. A part is transferred to the registration pages, and this is defined by its own marital status. For so long, marriage has been the only option in terms of engagement with mixed couples. As mentioned earlier, cohabitation laws may not go far enough to ensure the protection of both parties in the couple. Some couples see civil partnership as an alternative modern institution and think that if it were on the table, everyone should have the opportunity to switch to it if they feel it`s better for them. People may have married only because one of the partners was ill or because they had children and wanted to ensure that they received the full legal protection offered by the institution of marriage, without necessarily buying the traditions and ideals of marriage that we so often see.