Exeter, Devon UK • Sep 23, 2023 • VOL XII
Exeter, Devon UK • Sep 23, 2023 • VOL XII
Home Features The hetero agenda – A more civil way to live?

The hetero agenda – A more civil way to live?

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After discussing the topic of civil partnerships with many Exeter students, I found that the majority were unaware that heterosexual couples were legally not allowed to have civil partnerships. Many asked ‘why?’ but the majority asked ‘why does it even matter?’…

Image: Wikimedia.org

Under UK law, only same-sex couples are eligible to have civil partnerships. Many couples who don’t want to get married, either for ideological opinion or legal reasons, would rather have a civil partnership.  Whilst many people would be confused as to why same- sex couples would want the option of a civil partnership to begin with as marriage is something homosexual couples have been fighting for for years, it nevertheless flies in the face of notions of equality. It can be seen as discrimination on the grounds of sex. However, many people argue whether this is the type of equality we should be promoting between different orientations, or does it overlook more serious issues? Despite the fact that it may be a minor issue compared to otherwise serious concerns, it remains a topic of conversation amongst the public, and now within the government.

many people argue whether this is the type of equality we should be promoting between different orientations

Civil partnerships were introduced in the UK in 2004 to allow same-sex couples to obtain the same rights and responsibilities as civil marriage as they were legally unable to marry. As of the Marriage (Same Sex couples) Act of 2013, same-sex couples can now have civil marriages, but they still have the option to have a civil partnership instead. But opposite-sex couples are only able to legally marry, and cannot have civil partnership ceremonies. For couples who are morally opposed to the idea of marriage, it means they have no other way to formalize their relationship. Therefore, shouldn’t everyone have the same options to choose from?

Currently, there exists a campaign for the government to change the law to allow opposite sex couples to have civil partnerships. A change.org petition has over 3000 supporters and its is increasingly growing in popularity.

Image: Flickr.com

There are a small number of differences between civil partnership and marriage, for example, a civil partnership is registered when the second civil partner signs the relevant document, a civil marriage is registered when the couple exchange spoken words. Opposite-sex couples can opt for a religious or civil marriage ceremony as they choose, whereas formation of a civil partnership will be an exclusively civil procedure. As well as this, there are also the moral implications that come with the idea of marriage. Surprisingly more and more couples object to marriage as an institution and consider it historically oppressive and smothered in sexism.

They also may feel it is symbolically associated with religion and patriarchy- something which modernity allows opposition to. Asking a student opposed to marriage at the university believes that marriage represents ‘the giving away of the bride, with her playing the role of the un spoilt virgin in white. There is also an automatic assumption you’ll adopt the groom’s name. I suppose civil partnerships represent more equality in a relationship’

Ava Lee, manager of the Equal Civil Partnerships Campaign, recently explained that there are many financial benefits to civil partnerships that could be of use to the approximate three million UK couples who live together without marriage.

there are many financial benefits to civil partnerships

A 2012 government consultation found 61 per cent of around 200,000 respondents said civil partnerships should be made available for opposite-sex couples. But the government said it has consulted more on the issue and found a lack of consensus, so does not plan to make any changed to the law.

Peter Tatchell, Image: Wikimedia.org

The main hope now for opposite-sex couples who want civil partnerships comes from one particular couple: Charles Keidan, 39 and Rebecca Steinfeld, 34. The couple, who have a child together, have filed a judicial review at the High Court to have the ban lifted on the grounds that the current law “discriminates against long-term cohabiting opposite-sex couples.” They are being supported by human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, who is head of the Equal Love legal campaign which aims to redress what it says is an imbalance between heterosexual and homosexual partnership rights.

The ruling on this is expected at the end of this month, and if it is in their favour, it could mean all opposite-sex couples would be free to either have civil partnerships or marriages. Lee, who hopes to one day have a civil partnership herself, thinks this would be a huge step in the direction of true equality for Britain as a whole.

if it is in their favour, it could mean all opposite-sex couples would be free to either have civil partnerships or marriages

This would make it more equal for the lesbian gay bisexual trans (LGBT) community too. Because currently if one says they are in a civil partnership you’re telling someone what your sexuality is.

The same goes for the bisexual community too. If your future relationship could be with a man or a woman it’s bizarre your future options could be different depending on their gender.

Image: Freestockphotos.biz

The current system doesn’t really make sense and should perhaps be brought into line with places such as Holland and New Zealand where couples can choose between marriage and a civil partnership. Opening civil partnerships to all would bring the law up to date with the reality of family life: 3 million cohabiting couples with 1.8 million dependent children, all of whom currently lack the protection of marriage and choice of civil partnership.

From a personal perspective, the legacy of marriage – that it treated women as property for centuries, excluded same-sex couples until 2014, and still leaves room only for fathers’ names on marriage certificates – means that marriage is not an option for some and many feel as though a modern, symmetrical institution – sets the best example for her.

Straight couples would be allowed to enter civil partnerships under plans being drawn up by SNP ministers who are to separately outline proposals next week to legalise same-sex marriage. The move follows a campaign for heterosexuals to be offered an alternative to what some people regard as the old-fashioned or sexist institution of marriage.

marriage is not an option for some and many feel as though a modern, symmetrical institution – sets the best example for her

While the proposal will not be included in the forthcoming gay marriage bill at Holyrood, ministers will pledge to assess male and female civil partnerships with a view to future legislation. Currently, men and women in relationships cannot enter civil partnerships, which were created to give gay and lesbian couples the same legal rights, if not the status, of marriage. As is the case with gay couples, heterosexual couples who enter into a civil partnership would have the same legal rights as if they were married. A spokesman for the pressure group Equality Network, which has campaigned in favor of gay marriage and straight civil partnerships, said opening up the idea of civil partnerships to all was widely supported.

In a democratic society, everyone should be equal before the law. This means opening up civil marriages and civil partnerships in register offices to all couples, gay and heterosexual, without discrimination.

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