What are Civil Partnerships?
Issues facing Churches.
of Bishops Pastoral Statement (July 2005)
Statements and other
What are Civil Partnerships?
In December 2005 new legislation
will allow two people of the same sex to enter into a Civil Partnership and
gain a new legal status of a ‘civil partner’. Despite the claims
of some this is intended to be a form of same-sex marriage. This is clear from
the fact that the government and other supporters of the legislation resisted
attempts to broaden out the provision to cover, for example, an adult and
elderly relative or two sisters living together. Indeed Civil Partnerships
are deliberately modelled on marriage. The Government website outlining the
provision states, “Same-sex
couples who form a civil partnership will have parity of treatment in a wide
range of legal matters with those opposite-sex couples who enter into a civil
marriage.” It is significant that this statement can be found on the
LGBT (lesbian, gay, bi- and trans- sexual) section of the women and equality
site; this provision is aimed directly at providing legal benefits and protections
to homosexual couples.
Entering into a civil
partnership will mean making a commitment to provide for the partner
and ‘any children of the family’. The partner will
be able to act as a parent of any children. The partners will
be treated in the same way as a spouse for such things as child
support, life assurance, insurance, tax, inheritance, pensions,
immigration and so on.
The couple must both
be of the same sex, they cannot already be in a civil partnership
or marriage. They must be 16 years or older and cannot be within
the prohibited degrees. If civil partnerships are not meant to
be homosexual marriage, which some claim, then these represent
a gross injustice since they discriminate against different sex
couples who do not wish to enter a marriage relationship and,
for example, against two sisters who wanted to secure the same
benefits. The only possible reason for preventing a civil partnership
between a closely related couple (the prohibited degrees) is to
try and make civil partnerships seem like a marriage. This prohibition
makes sense in the context of marriage because of the potential
genetic problems in offspring but it is meaningless in same-sex
Any place, except for
religious venues, that is currently authorised to conduct marriages,
will automatically be authorised to conduct ceremonies for civil
partnerships. Public notice will have to be given in advance but
addresses are not included - presumably for fear that it might
The dissolution of a civil partnership will have to be done through the courts
with the justification of unreasonable behaviour, separation or desertion.
Same sex relationships registered in other countries (about a dozen at present)
will be recognised in the UK, and entering into a civil partnership can be
a means of securing immigration.
No Christians will wish
to enter into such a relationship. Even if a couple genuinely
had no intention of engaging in homophile sexual activity, which
is clearly contrary to the revealed will of God, they would still
be participating in something which makes a mockery of the God-given
relationship of marriage and the justification for doing so would
be purely to do with securing rights and privileges.
Issues facing Churches
How should the Church respond publicly
to this development?
If it is not (at present) permitted
for registrations to take place at a place of worship what should be the response
of a Church if approached by a couple seeking a service of prayer and dedication
(sometimes called a 'blessing') after a civil ceremony?
What should the Church do when a
clergyman or woman enters into a Civil Partnership?
What should the Church do in situations
where someone in a Civil partnership seeks baptism, confirmation, communion,
ordination, or a place on a parochial church council etc?
How should the Church seek to pastor
those in civil partnerships or considering entering into them?
Statements and other resources
Civil Partnerships and Christian Leadership - Church Society news release 9 January 2013.
Religious Ceremonies for Civil Partnerships - Church Society news release 5 March 2010 following decision in parliament to life the ban on religious ceremonies.
should not enter into Civil Partnerships - Church Society press release 1 August 2006 - following the reports
that Jeffrey John, Dean of St. Albans, had entered into a C.P.
Key Issues Arising from the Civil Partnerships Act - Critique of the House of Bishops' response. Churchman article, Spring 2006 by Charles Raven.