The Scottish Government have today published their consultation on the future of civil partnership, outlining three options but stating they are not in favour of full equality.
Equality and human rights campaigners have expressed their surprise and disappointment with the government’s bias against full equality in its consultation.
The Scottish government outlined three options: 1) civil partnership would remain available for same sex couples only; 2) stopping new civil partnerships being registered at some date in the future; 3) or introducing opposite sex civil partnership in Scotland.
However the government explicitly makes clear that the Scottish Government prefers the first two options: “The Government is not persuaded that opposite sex civil partnership should be introduced in Scotland, although this consultation invites views on this position. As the consultation indicates, the Government is of the view that demand would be low; there would be costs; and opposite sex couples seeking to enter into a registered relationship have the option of marrying.
“The Government does not have a view at this stage on which of the other two options should be followed.
“This follows the publication of statistics on the number of marriages and civil partnerships, which shows the number of civil partnerships being entered into is continuing to fall.”
Minister for Local Government and Community Empowerment Marco Biagi said: “This Government is immensely proud of introducing same sex marriage, which was a milestone in achieving equality in Scotland.
“During the Parliamentary passage of the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act 2014 we said we would consider the future of civil partnerships, which is what our consultation now seeks to do.
“We remain open to hearing all views on the options set out in the consultation but, after careful consideration of this issue, we are not persuaded of the case for the establishment of opposite sex civil partnership in Scotland.
The Equality Network, a Scottish LGBTI charity, has today expressed surprise and disappointment at the position taken by the Scottish Government.
Tim Hopkins, Director of the Equality Network, told KaleidoScot: “We welcome the publication of the consultation paper. But we are surprised and disappointed that the Scottish Government appear to have decided already to oppose equal civil partnership, that is, making civil partnership available to all couples regardless of gender.
“In our view, that is the only option that respects both equality and diversity. We know that a significant minority of mixed-sex and same-sex couples would prefer a civil partnership to a marriage, and at the moment only same-sex couples have that option. Equality means making that available to all.”
In a separate statement the charity said: “We are very disappointed to see that, in advance of the public consultation, the Scottish Government have already announced in the consultation paper that they are not in favour of option 3. As a result, the consultation paper is unbalanced, in that the main part of it lists the arguments in favour of and against options 1 and 2, but does not list the arguments in favour of option 3, only the arguments against. And the consultation questions are also unbalanced, with more focus on options 1 and 2. However, the paper does ask for views on the Government’s position on this.
“We are surprised as well as disappointed, because in our view, option 3 is the one that embodies the values of both equality and diversity, since it treats all couples the same, while maximising diversity and choice. In our view the Scottish Government have failed to fully embody those values in this consultation, by opposing option 3 from the start.”
The Equality Network say they have consulted with hundreds of LGBTI and non-LGBTI people, and there is a clear demand from a significant number of mixed-sex and same-sex couples who would prefer a civil partnership to a marriage.
In that consultation, several hundred people told the Equality Network why they would prefer a civil partnership. In a typical response, one person wrote: “Marriage comes with many traditions, teachings and connotations that I heavily disagree with. Not wanting to be part of that system means that I will not get married. However, that will mean that I don’t have the same rights as a married person even if everything else about our lives is exactly the same.
“A civil partnership would allow me to live a better, fairer life without compromising my beliefs and values. It allows me the option of making a formal partnership with my significant other and it being seen as a true partnership.”
An Ipsos MORI opinion poll in 2012, conducted on behalf of the Equality Network, found that 71% of people in Scotland agreed that civil partnership should be opened up to mixed-sex couples.
Commenting on the news Jordan Daly and Liam Stevenson of the TIE Campaigner told KaleidoScot:”If the Scottish Government is truly committed to equality and social inclusion; then all practices, institutions and arrangements should be available to all: regardless of gender or sexual orientation. We are committed to building a fully inclusive society from the starting point of education, and so we are disappointed to see that our government have failed to recognise the possible negative implications of this for many, particularly those from the transgender community.”
Peter Tatchell, one of the UK’s leading human rights campaigners expressed his surprise and disappointment, telling KaleidoScot: “The government of Scotland’s opposition to equal civil partnerships is very surprising and hugely disappointing. It contradicts the First Minister’s repeated commitment to equality for all and sabotages the democratic principle that everyone should be equal before the law. Since civil partnerships exist, they ought to be available to all citizens, without discrimination. By its stated rejection of opposite-sex civil partnerships, the Scottish administration is preempting the outcome of the public consultation and endorsing discrimination against heterosexual couples.”