CPs versus Marriage

What are the actual differences between a Civil Partnership (CP) and a marriage? Some people argue that same-sex couples already have the right to a CP – so what’s the point of equal marriage? Yet there are subtle legal and important social differences.

  The Legal Differences  

Civil Partnership legislation offers identical rights and responsibilities to same-sex couples as civil marriage including: property rights, inheritance tax exemptions, social security and pension benefits, tenancy and next of kin rights, parental (and financial) responsibility for partner's children under section 72 of the Children's Act as well as responsibility for maintenance of partner and children.

  The Difference in the Detail  

There are technical differences, and difference in perception. CPs are formed through the signing of documentation, whereas a marriage is formed by the saying of words (and people sign a register too, but technically would still be married if they just said the set of words.

Marriage is also formed by consummation, which is why non-consummation and adultery are grounds for divorce in marriage. They are not grounds for dissolution in CPs, as this would involve redefining what sex is (legally, sex is defined a penetrative penis-vagina intercourse) and the Government seem reluctant to do this.

Some private pension schemes also differentiate between marriage and CP regarding accrual of pension rights, and civil partners of male peers or knights do not receive a courtesy title to which the spouse of a peer or knight would be entitled.

  What Couples Say  

David & Darren; “Full marriage is important to us. It’s simple, we both believe in equality and our right to have the same choices as anyone else. We feel that it is extremely important for us to be seen as equal in the law.”

Kath & Christine;It’s an awkward thing to say ‘civil partnered’, I just automatically say I’m married. We’re trying to teach our children tolerance and not to discriminate against anybody at a time where there is discrimination against people wanting to marry each other because they love each other.”

Rob & Richard; “Like our parents, we too want to be able to say that we 'are married.'”

Sian & Sarah; “Being civilly partnered means I immediately have to out myself, and so does my family. It makes you feel ‘different’ and ‘other’. I wanted to get married like my sisters”

Nick & Sarah; “We want to be married like proper equals to every other married couple. Civil partnerships I do not seem to be taken as seriously to the rest of the world as marriage. To the individual having the partnership it can feel like it is a second class service. I think it contributed to homophobia as it’s not accepted and not equal. If we could get married, then being lesbian or gay would be seen as more ‘normal’ and there would be less discrimination over time”

Martin & Daniel; “My brother will soon be a married man, just as my father was a married man, and my grandfathers before him. If Dan and I had a civil partnership under current legislation, I would not be able to say the same about myself. What would I be? 'Partnered'? What would my marital status be? 'Living as if married'?