Civil partnerships for mixed sex couples set to be legalised

New legislation means all couples will have the same choices should they decide they want a legally recognised relationship.

A new law that will allow mixed sex couples in Scotland to enter into civil partnerships will be introduced “as soon as possible”, MSPs have been told.

Cabinet secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville made the pledge as Holyrood passed legislation making the change.

While both same sex and mixed sex couples can get married, in Scotland only same sex couples can choose to enter into a civil partnership.

But after ministers consulted on the issue in 2018, Ms Somerville said it was clear changing the law and “extending civil partnerships to mixed sex couples was going to be the right approach”.

Introducing civil partnerships for mixed sex couples “means all couples in Scotland have the same choices should they decide they want a legally recognised relationship”, she told the Scottish Parliament.

Meanwhile, the Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill – which was passed by 64 votes to zero – will also allow for those mixed sex couples who are already married to convert their relationship to civil partnership status, if they so wish.

Secondary legislation in the Scottish and UK Parliaments will be necessary for mixed sex civil partnerships to take place in Scotland.

Ms Somerville said the legislation was “consistent with the principles of equality and freedom of choice that underpin this Bill”.

She said: “I am committed to implementing this Bill as soon as possible so no-one has to wait too long to enter into a mixed sex civil partnership, should they wish to do so.

“It may even be that some couples in Scotland will be emerging from lockdown with a deepened sense of commitment to each other, and a wish to realise that commitment in the form of a mixed sex civil partnership.

“And if they do, I wish them the very best.”

Conservative Graham Simpson said: “To some this Bill on the face of it may not be the most important matter in the world, but to those it potentially affects it will be very important indeed, so I am glad we have found parliamentary time for this.”

He noted the Bill would bring Scotland in line with other countries in the UK.

But he said that the legislation “does not allow for adultery to be used as grounds for ending a civil partnership, unlike in marriage” – adding that both the Faculty of Advocates and Law Society in Scotland had suggested this would be “worthy of further consideration”.

Meanwhile, Labour’s Pauline McNeill said: “Many people feel strongly that marriage is just not the right institution for them.

“I’m pleased this Bill will ensure these people can be legally recognised in relationships.”

Similarly Liberal Democrat MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “Marriage isn’t everybody’s cup of tea.

“This legislation will correct an aberration in the legal landscape by which the law recognises any union.”

Recalling the time when civil partnerships were introduced for same sex couples, Scottish Green parliamentary co-leader Patrick Harvie said: “It was wrong to criticise marriage for being discriminatory against same sex couples and then introduce a new mechanism, civil partnership, that was also discriminatory from the word go.”

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