THE Government should not abolish civil partnerships because it
would create an "invidious choice" for gay couples who may not
wish, for religious reasons, to get married, a Church of England
submission has said.
The submission to the Government's consultation on civil
partnerships was sent on Wednesday of last week, but has only just
been released. It is "based on the views of the Archbishops'
Council and the House of Bishops", and argues that civil
partnerships should be retained.
It reads: "Whilst civil partnership and marriage confer
effectively the same legal standing upon a relationship, there
remain important differences. The differences are especially
important for many Christians who accept the Churches' traditional
teaching both on marriage and on sexual behaviour.
"As civil partnership is not marriage and also involves no
presumption that the relationship is sexually active, it offers an
important structure for the public validation of the relationship
of a same-sex couple who wish to live in accordance with the
church's traditional teaching.
"If civil partnership was to be abolished, such couples would be
faced with the unjust choice of either marrying (which might
conflict with their religious beliefs about the nature of marriage)
or losing all public and legal recognition of their
It concludes: "It is in the nature of a plural democracy that
beliefs conscientiously held by minorities should be respected
where they do not undermine the practice of the majority. The
retention of civil partnership will do nothing to undermine the
validity of same-sex marriage, but will serve to provide a
structure whereby those who retain this conviction will not be
excluded from the legal and public benefits of their union but will
be able to do so without doing violence to their conscientiously
The Government is not proposing to abolish civil partnerships.
In a foreward to the consultation, Helen Grant, the Equalities
Minister, stresses that the measures in it are not Government
policy proposals but "ideas for changing civil partnership which
others have suggested". The consultation cautions: "We should avoid
acting prematurely, before the impact of same-sex couples having
access to marriage is known." It notes that there is no legal
reason for changing the current provision.
The consultation lists three reasons why some people are in
favour of abolishing civil partnership: that it is no longer
needed; that it would "achieve fairness" for both opposite and
same-sex couples; and that it would be simpler, legally and
It also lists three reasons why some are opposed to abolition:
that it is not evident who would benefit from such a step; that it
would be complicated; and that couples in civil partnerships would
need to choose between ending their relationship and converting
their relationship into a marriage.
The consultation notes that one option would be to stop new
civil partnerships being registered but allow existing ones to
Since civil partnership was introduced in December 2005, more
than 60,000 have been registered. The Marriage (Same Sex Couplpes)
Act, which came into effect last month, makes provision for those
in civil partnership to convert their civil partnership into
A number of Church of England clerics are in civil partnerships.
The House of Bishops' current guidance states that clergy may enter
civil partnerships, on the assumption that they are celibate.
"Getting married to someone of the same sex would, however, clearly
be at variance with the teaching of the Church of England" (
News, 14 February).