5 Civil partnerships |
91. We note the Bill's new provision that places
an obligation on the Secretary of State to undertake an immediate
review of civil partnerships.
92. Evidence received by us has suggested that there
is a potential human rights issue in relation to the continued
exclusion of opposite sex couples from access to civil partnerships.
It may amount to unjustifiable discrimination for the law not
to provide the same facility for legal recognition of opposite
sex couples who could claim that their relationship is analogous
to that of civil partners. This may lead to less favourable treatment
of opposite sex couples in certain contexts, for example, in relation
to property rights. There must be a clear justification for excluding
opposite sex couples from being able to access the statutory benefits,
legal protections and exemptions that apply to civil partners.
93. In evidence to us, the Government maintained
that any difference in treatment of opposite sex couples is justified
because unmarried opposite sex couples are free to marry in order
to gain legal recognition of their relationship, and have therefore
chosen instead the less favourable legal treatment of their unmarried
94. The Government has also highlighted potential
costs of extending civil partnerships to opposite sex couples.
When asked about this in evidence, the Pensions Minister suggested
that the extension of civil partnerships to opposite sex couples
may result in the need for total pension equality in public service
pension schemes, which may cost between £3 billion to
95. We are not convinced by the Government's reasons
not to extend civil partnerships to opposite sex couples, and
we welcome the Government's announcement that it will review this
matter. In doing so, the Government should take into account
the potential discrimination that may arise between cohabiting
opposite sex couples and civil partners. We also note that there
was some ambiguity in the Government evidence to us concerning
the costs of extending civil partnerships to opposite sex couples.
As part of its review, we expect the Government to provide clear
and accurate information about these costs.
110 Clause14oftheBill,asintroducedatHouseofCommonsReportStage,20May2013 Back
Letter from Rt Hon Maria Miller MP to Chair of the Joint Committee
on Human Rights, 18 April 2013, Annex p.10;Evidence Session Qs.