MPs were told that there are over three million opposite-sex couples that cohabit but choose not to marry for personal reasons. While these couples support a million children, they do not have the security or legal protection that married couples or civil partners enjoy.
The instrument extends civil partnerships to opposite-sex couples in England and Wales, by amending the definition of civil partnerships and the eligibility criteria for registering as civil partners in the 2004 Act, to remove the same-sex requirement.
It also amends Part 5 of the 2004 Act so that certain opposite-sex relationships formed in other countries, which are not marriages, can be recognised as civil partnerships in England and Wales.
The instrument also provides specific protections for religious organisations and persons acting on their behalf. The religious protections recognise the potential for diversity of religious views in this area, particularly whilst some religious organisations may choose not to be involved in any civil partnerships, others may be content to host only civil partnerships between same-sex couples, and others may prefer only to be involved in civil partnerships between opposite-sex couples, the paper explains.
The instrument also introduces a new ‘non-compulsion’ clause so that religious organisations and persons acting on their behalf cannot be compelled to do specified acts (such as allowing religious premises to be used for civil partnerships, or participating in civil partnerships on religious premises), where either the organisation, or the person, does not wish to do so.