Church of England response to changing Civil Partnerships

It’s an interesting read.

Church England LogoQ1 What are your views about abolishing the legal relationship of civil partnership once same sex couples can marry?

This response to the Consultation is sent on behalf of the Church of England. The content of the submission is based on the views of the Archbishops’ Council and the House of Bishops.

We believe that civil partnership should not be abolished.

When civil partnership was introduced, it addressed the widely acknowledged problem that same sex couples, many of whom were in long term, faithful relationships intended to be permanent, did not share the same kind of legal position enjoyed by married heterosexual couples, such as the rights of next-of-kin, inheritance and pension rights and so on. The Church of England recognises that same sex relationships often embody fidelity and mutuality. Civil partnerships enable these Christian virtues to be recognised socially and legally in a proper framework.

The introduction of same sex marriage now offers an alternative way for same sex couples to secure those advantages. It is, however, too soon to know what proportion of people currently in civil partnerships will wish to convert them into marriage and how many people may in future decide to enter a civil partnership rather than marry. And whatever the numbers turn out to be, abolishing civil partnership would pose an invidious choice for those who may, on grounds of religious conviction or for other reasons, not wish to enter a same sex marriage.

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 relationship.

Q2 Once marriage is available to same sex couples, do you think it should still bepossible for couples to form a civil partnership as an alternative to marrying?

Yes. For the reasons outlined above, we believe strongly that the option of civil partnership should remain open for same sex couples who do not believe that marriage is right for them. This is more than a matter of personal preference. In the debate leading up to the legislation on same sex marriage, many of those who opposed the legislation did so on the grounds that, whilst same sex couples should have every legal entitlement that was available to heterosexual couples, the single word “marriage” was being used to denote two different kinds of relationship. That view did not prevail in Parliament, but it continues to be held by a significant number of people in the country and not just by Christians.

The retention of civil partnership will mean that Christian and other same sex couples who hold the traditional understanding of marriage as being between a man and a woman, will still have a social and legal framework in which their relationship can be honoured and recognised. We believe that this constituency for civil partnership extends beyond those who chose civil partnership over marriage on religious grounds.

Q3 What are your views about extending civil partnerships to opposite sex couples?

We do not believe that a case has been made for extending civil partnerships to opposite sex couples. Our arguments for the retention of civil partnership are based on the need to maintain an option for those same sex couples who wish for proper recognition of their relationship but do not believe that their relationship is identical to “marriage”. It is much less clear what comparable disadvantage arises from the absence of opportunity for opposite sex couples to form civil partnerships.

It will be interesting to see what the Government ends up doing with Civil Partnerships. As the Church’s response points out later on, the idea that they just convert all Civil Partnerships to marriages is a nonsense.

1 Comment on “Church of England response to changing Civil Partnerships

  1. The response to the last question is most telling. The CofE knows that if it supported opening up CPs to opposite-sex couples, there could be no plausible reason for treating them any differently from the civil marriages for which they currently offer blessings.

    How could they then frame a parallel blessing after a CP registration that would only be open to opposite-sex partners?

    If CPs are opened up to all orientations, the Anglican Church may have a problem on its hands.

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