Civil partnerships: What the new ruling could mean for the industry
You may have heard that at the end of last month, the Supreme Court ruled that a heterosexual couple should be allowed to have a civil partnership, instead of a civil or religious marriage. This has opened the doors to plenty of debate – but how exactly does a civil partnership differ from a civil marriage, and what does this mean for the industry?
Civil partnership vs civil marriage
Previously, only same-sex couples were permitted to enter into a civil partnership, but now it looks as though this option will become open to mixed-sex couples too. Despite the similar name, civil partnerships and civil marriages or ceremonies aren’t the same. Here are a few of the legal points that differentiate them:
- Although the legal rights are largely the same, civil partners cannot legally refer to themselves as ‘married’ on official documentation.
- Couples having a civil marriage ceremony must say vows, whereas, in a civil partnership, there’s no legal requirement for vows or even a ceremony.
- As civil partnerships were introduced for same-sex couples, adultery is not recognised as grounds for dissolving the partnership – legally, the definition of adultery requires there to be sexual intercourse between a man and a woman. Couples wanting to dissolve their partnership on the grounds of unfaithfulness would have to cite ‘unreasonable behaviour’.
- In some countries, including Sweden, Argentina and Portugal, civil partnerships are not legally recognised. This would mean that civil partners living in these countries would not have the same legal rights as a married couple.
- On a civil marriage certificate, only the couple’s fathers’ names are listed. On a civil partnership certificate, both parents are recognised.
So why do mixed-sex couples want the right to have a civil partnership?
Although civil marriage removes the religious element from a wedding ceremony, some campaigners believe that it is still steeped in the tradition of women as property – traditions such as the father giving away the bride, women promising to ‘obey’ their husband as part of the traditional civil vows, and even the wearing of a veil can be considered to be outdated traditions by some. A civil partnership may be a more modern alternative for those who disagree with traditional marriage, but who still wish to have a legally recognised partnership – although many couples simply choose to have a civil marriage and opt out of any traditions they feel aren’t suitable for them.
What does this mean for the industry?
Depending on the nature of your business, it may mean very little. If they are opened up to mixed-sex couples, we certainly predict that civil partnerships will rise in popularity, as those mixed-sex couples who previously felt marriage was not an option for them will now have a legal option to pursue. However, as civil partnerships are a non-traditional alternative to marriage, those having them may not opt for the traditional ceremony and reception set-up. On the other hand, those who do will expect their suppliers to be open-minded and not make assumptions about the nature of their ceremony. We recommend finding out in the early stages of chatting to your customers whether they are having a civil marriage or civil partnership, so that you can tailor your service accordingly. Being informed on the differences between the two is key to making your customers feel they are in safe hands.