When legislation creating civil partnerships was passing through Parliament the government was at pains to give reassurances that these were distinct from marriage. They undoubtedly righted an injustice that many dependent couples, not married, could face great hardship when partners died or were ill. Yet because they were limited to same-sex partners, rather than maiden aunts and siblings, they were a nod in the direction of a quasi-homosexual marriage. This was confirmed later when a Home Office press release, announcing the date on which the legislation would become law, stated that wedding bells would be ringing for
And now by allowing religious elements to be incorporated into civil partnerships in contrast it is clear that the government is pushing these civil partnerships to their limits as a form of marriage between homosexuals. And there is absolutely no doubt that the remaining distinctions between civil partnerships and matrimony, despite the usual empty government reassurances, will be tested in the years ahead. Firstly, when the dust has settled a legal test case will be brought against a church which has opted out of allowing a gay couple to use their premises for a civil partnership.
But whether or not such a case wins or loses, the pressure is already building for gay civil marriage, which will eventually become gay religious marriage. And before we know it, what was permissive will become coercive and compulsory.