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Civil Partnership Bill receives Royal Assent 19/11/04 [E/NI/S/W]

Legislation to give legal recognition to same-sex couples for the first time has received Royal Assent.



The Civil Partnership Act will allow same-sex couples to make a formal, legal commitment to each other by entering into a civil partnership through a statutory civil registration procedure. At present, same-sex couples have no way of gaining formal legal recognition for their relationship and as a result suffer a range of unnecessary problems in their everyday lives.

A range of 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:

  • 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

  • Employment and pension benefits

  • Recognition under intestacy rules

  • Access to fatal accidents compensation

  • Recognition for immigration and nationality purposes
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 the register in the presence of the registration officer and two witnesses. There will be a formal, court-based process for dissolution of a civil partnership.

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

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.

The UK joins nine EU countries, and some states in the US and Australia, in introducing a form of legally recognized civil partnership registration.

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.

Civil partnerships: legal recognition for committed same-sex couples

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 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

  • Employment and pension benefits

  • Recognition under intestacy rules

  • Access to fatal accidents compensation

  • 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 recognised 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.

Further information:

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