Civil Partnership Act 2004

Civil Partnership Act 2004
Civil Partnership Act 2004

United Kingdom Parliament
Long title An act to make provision for and in connection with civil partnership.
Statute book chapter 1919 c. 76[1]
Territorial extent United Kingdom
Royal Assent 18 November 2004[1]
Commencement 17 November 2004
Status: Current legislation
See Civil partnership in the United Kingdom for a detailed discussion of the Act and its implementation.

The Civil Partnership Act 2004, introduced by the Labour government and supported by the Conservative and Liberal Democrat opposition, grants civil partnerships in the United Kingdom with rights and responsibilities identical to civil marriage. Civil Partners are entitled to the same property rights as married opposite-sex couples, the same exemption as married couples on inheritance tax, social security and pension benefits, and also the ability to get parental responsibility for a partner's children,[2] as well as responsibility for reasonable maintenance of one's partner and their children, tenancy rights, full life insurance recognition, next-of-kin rights in hospitals, and others.[3] There is a formal process for dissolving partnerships akin to divorce.


Schedule 20

Schedule 20 recognises certain overseas unions as equivalent to civil partnerships under the laws of the United Kingdom. Same-sex couples who have entered into those unions are automatically recognised in the United Kingdom as civil partners. Relationships not specified in the schedule may also recognised as civil partnerships if they meet the conditions of Section 214 of the Act, therefore many of the unions listed below as not listed in Schedule 20 may none the less be recognised.

Schedule 20 is subject to adjustment, and additional overseas relationships may be added as more jurisdictions across the world bring in civil partnership or same-sex marriage legislation. On 5 December 2005, the original schedule of the 2004 act was amended to include several other countries and states.[4]

Overseas relationships recognized under Schedule 20, as amended

# Canada and its provinces also extend significant spousal rights to unregistered or de facto partners. But section 212 of the Act describes the foreign relationships that are eligible for recognition as those that are "registered" in another country, so unregistered or de facto partners arguably cannot satisfy the general conditions for recognition in the United Kingdom under section 214 of the Act.

Civil unions are no longer recognized in Connecticut, where the act creating same-sex marriage converted unions to marriages and repealed the civil union provisions.

Acts have provided for marriage in Vermont and civil unions in New Jersey since the schedule was last updated, but civil unions and domestic partnerships, respectively, still exist in those states.

Unions adopted since Schedule 20 last amended

The following unions were created after Schedule 20 was last updated:

Pre-existing unions omitted from Schedule 20

The following unions—although established before Schedule 20 was compiled and later amended—were omitted from Schedule 20. The reason for the omission is unclear. These unions appear to meet the general conditions under Section 214 of the Act, and they also appear to be equivalent to other unions that have been included in Schedule 20.

Legislative passage

The Act was announced in the Queen's Speech at the start of the 2003/2004 legislative session, and its full text was revealed on 31 March 2004. It received Royal Assent on 18 November 2004 and came into force on 5 December 2005, allowing the first couples to form civil partnerships 15 days later. Confusion regarding the interpretation of the Act led to registrations being accepted from 19 December in Northern Ireland, 20 December in Scotland and 21 December in England and Wales. The Scottish Parliament voted in favour of a Legislative Consent Motion allowing Westminster to legislate for Scotland in this Act.

Political opposition and support

The Bill was backed by the Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru, the SNP and the SDLP. It was opposed by the DUP and the UUP.[5][6] Conservative Party MPs were split on the issue,[7] and the party leadership did not issue a whip mandating MPs to take a particular stance on the Bill, instead allowing its MPs a free vote.[8] This decision was described in the British media as an attempt to demonstrate a shift to a more inclusive, centrist approach under the leadership of Michael Howard, and was a departure from the less supportive approach to LGBT Rights under the leadership of Iain Duncan Smith.[9] As party leader, Duncan Smith had imposed a three line whip against the Adoption and Children Bill, mandating all Conservative MPs to vote against extending adoption rights to same-sex couples.[10] Conservative MPs split 67 in favour to 37 against at the second reading, and 43 in favour to 39 against at the third reading. High-profile Conservative MPs who voted against the Civil Partnerships Bill included Iain Duncan Smith, Ann Widdecombe, Bob Spink and Peter Lilley. Those who voted in favour included David Cameron, George Osborne and party leader Michael Howard. Around 30 Conservative MPs did not participate in any of the votes.[6]


An amendment tabled by Conservative MP Edward Leigh proposed to extend the property and pension rights afforded by civil partnerships to siblings who had lived together for more than 12 years. This was opposed by many backers of the bill, such as frontbench Conservative MP Alan Duncan, who considered it a wrecking amendment.[7][11] Leigh himself was an opponent of the Civil Partnerships bill, and voted against it at the second reading.[6] The amendment was backed by Norman Tebbit and the Christian Institute, which paid for a full page advert in favour of the amendment in The Times newspaper.[12] Labour and the Liberal Democrats issued a whip against the Leigh Amendment, and only two MPs from each party rebelled to vote in favour of it.[6]

On 24 June 2004, during the discussion at the report stage in the House of Lords, Conservative peer Baroness O'Cathain moved an amendment to extend eligibility for civil partnership to blood relatives who had lived together for a minimum period of time. This amendment was passed in the Lords by 148 to 130, a majority of 18.[13] Like the Leigh amendment, opponents considered the O'Cathain amendment to be a wrecking amendment, and like Leigh, O'Cathain herself voted against the Civil Partnerships Bill. Labour Peer Baron Alli, said the amendment was "ill-conceived and does nothing other than undermine the purpose of the bill",[13] while the gay rights group Stonewall said the amendment was "unworkable and undermined hundreds of years of family law".[14]

The House of Commons later removed this amendment and sent the revised Bill back to the Lords for reconsideration. The Lords decided to accept the Commons version on 17 November and the Bill received Royal Assent the next day.

Legal process to form a Civil Partnership in the UK

In order to form a civil partnership in the UK, both parties must be over the age of 16, of the same sex, not already in a civil partnership or marriage, and not be within the prohibited degrees of relationship. If of the age of 16 or 17, the consent of the individual's parent or guardian will be required, except in Scotland, where marriages and civil partnerships can take place from the age of 16 with no need for parental consent.

In order to complete the registration process, the couple must each give notice of their intention to the registry office. After 15 days they can complete the registration process. The couple can also enjoy a ceremony if they choose but this is not a requirement of the Act. The first date on which notice could be given was 5 December 2005 and the first registration was on 21 December 2005. The 15-day notice period allows the registrar to check that the couple is eligible to go ahead with the registration.[15]

Once this process is complete, the couple will enjoy all legal rights and responsibilities handed to them by the Civil Partnership Act 2004

See also


  1. ^ a b "Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act 1919 (original text)". 23 December 1919. Retrieved 21 May 2008. 
  2. ^ "Gay couples to get joint rights". BBC News. 31 March 2004. Retrieved 14 May 2006. 
  3. ^ Rights and Responsibilities on the Directgov website
  4. ^ Text of the 2005 Statutory Instrument
  5. ^ "Civil Partnerships – Vote Breakdown". The Christian Institute. Archived from the original on 12 January 2010. Retrieved 13 January 2010. 
  6. ^ a b c d Cowley, Philip; Stuart, Mark (10 November 2004). "Some not very civil disagreements: The Conservatives and the Civil Partnership Bill" (PDF). Archived from the original on 13 January 2010. Retrieved 13 January 2010. 
  7. ^ a b Davie, Edward (9 November 2004). "Conservatives split on civil partnerships". Archived from the original on 13 January 2010. Retrieved 13 January 2010. 
  8. ^ "Bill breakdown: The Civil Partnerships Bill". BBC News. 9 November 2004. Retrieved 13 January 2010. 
  9. ^ Waugh, Paul (1 July 2003). "Tories get free vote on gay-partnership rights". The Independent. Archived from the original on 13 January 2010. Retrieved 13 January 2010. 
  10. ^ Waugh, Paul (5 November 2002). "How a tactical error by Duncan Smith led to a bad call". The Independent. Archived from the original on 13 January 2010. Retrieved 13 January 2010. 
  11. ^ Coward, Colin (9 November 2004). "Civil Partnership bill wrecking amendment defeated". Changing Attitude. Archived from the original on 13 January 2010. Retrieved 13 January 2010. 
  12. ^ "Sibling partnership call rejected". BBC. 9 November 2004. Archived from the original on 13 January 2010. Retrieved 13 January 2010. 
  13. ^ a b Tempest, Matthew (24 June 2004). "Lords set back civil partnerships bill". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 13 January 2010. Retrieved 13 January 2010. 
  14. ^ "The Civil Partnership Act". Stonewall. Archived from the original on 13 January 2010. Retrieved 13 January 2010. 
  15. ^ "Civil Partnership Law Update". Furley Page. 27 April 2005. Retrieved 10 June 2011. 

External links

UK Legislation

Drafts of the Act

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