The Equality Network, Scotland’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) equality and human rights charity, has launched a new consultation on the future of civil partnership in Scotland.
The consultation follows the implementation of the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act 2014, which means that same-sex couples are now able to have a marriage or a civil partnership in Scotland.
Currently, mixed-sex (legally female/male) couples can only choose marriage because the law in Scotland prevents mixed-sex couples from having a civil partnership. This also means that mixed-sex couples in a civil partnership from another country have no legal recognition for their relationship in Scotland.
Last year, the Scottish Government made a commitment to consult on the future of civil partnership. This government consultation is expected to take place later in 2015, and the Equality Network expects a number of options to be considered, including:
1) Keeping civil partnership and opening it up to mixed-sex couples, so that all couples have the choice of marriage or civil partnership in Scotland;
2) Keeping civil partnership but continuing to restrict it to same-sex couples only;
3) Phasing out civil partnership altogether so that marriage becomes the only option available to all couples in future (though existing civil partnerships would continue).
Around the world, in countries that allow same-sex marriage, some countries have both marriage and civil partnership open to all couples (e.g. the Netherlands, New Zealand, France), and some just have marriage (e.g. Portugal, Norway, Sweden) with no option of civil partnership. Only one other jurisdiction in the world (England and Wales) has marriage open to all couples but restricts civil partnership to same-sex couples only.
In Scotland, marriage and civil partnership have almost identical legal effects but they have different names and are legally a different status. For various reasons, some people prefer marriage and other people prefer civil partnership.
The Equality Network is surveying LGBTI people and non-LGBTI people in advance of the Scottish Government’s consultation to help inform their ongoing work on partnership rights in Scotland and their submission to the Scottish Government consultation.