• Catherine Utley

Lords to debate civil partnerships bill

Updated: Feb 4, 2019

16 January 2019

Conservative MP Tim Loughton

A Private Members' Bill sponsored by the Conservative MP, Tim Loughton which would extend civil partnerships to opposite sex couples has passed through the House of Commons and receives its second reading in the House of Lords on Friday (18 January). At present same sex couples can choose between marriage or civil partnership to formalise their relationship; couples of opposite sexes are offered marriage only. Mr Loughton says he hopes his Bill will be passed into law later this year, putting right this discrepancy. The government has already said it supports the measure. However, the bill, as it is currently worded, excludes from its provisions close family members who live together long-term in adulthood and still have no means of securing any legal rights or safeguards. Mr Loughton has said that, even if he agreed with this idea, it would be too complicated to insert it into his bill. The Conservative peer, Lord Lexden is among many in parliament who want long-term cohabiting siblings included. He will speak in the debate on Friday. During an earlier stage of Mr Loughton's bill through parliament, the Conservative MP, Edward Leigh, referred to the denial of all rights to cohabiting siblings - particularly the deferral of inheritance tax until both have died - as "a burning injustice". The government supports the extension of civil partnerships (which are the only way unmarried people have of securing such rights) to opposite sex couples as an alternative to marriage, but rejects the idea that cohabiting family members should be allowed them. Unlike in marriage, there is no legal expectation of a sexual relationship in a civil partnership; however the government says civil partnerships are intended for those in what it terms "intimate couple relationships" . Catherine Utley of Family Ties Matter said: "The purpose of civil partnerships was always to provide rights for those who were ineligible to marry. Now the plan is to extend them to all those who are eligible to marry while excluding only those who, obviously, are not. It's hard to see the point or the fairness in that."