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Family Law Blog

Comment on divorce & family law 

Will you “civil partnership” me?

Or should it be civilianise me”? Or “be civil to me”? Whatever the right proposal may be, it certainly doesn’t have the same ring (no pun intended) as “Will you marry me?”

What am I rambling about? A heterosexual couple are launching a legal bid to become civil partners. Tom Freeman and Katherine Doyle don’t want to get married but hey want their union to be formally recognised in the eyes of the law. The problem with the law at the moment is that civil partnerships are only available to gay couples. They were introduced with the Civil Partnerships Act 2004 after years of lobbying to give same sex partners the same (or similar) legal rights to married couples. Now a heterosexual couple want to go down that route instead of getting married. Yes, it is a little confusing.

That said though, is there anything intrinsically wrong with Tom and Katherine wanting to do this? After five years together they want to make a lifetime commitment to each other and they'd like greater legal and financial security than that offered by simply cohabiting. They just don’t want to get married. So on 9 November, they will go to the town hall in Islington, north London, and file a civil partnership application. Who knows what the outcome will be?

A civil partnership is not to be confused with a civil ceremony, which is where a couple marry in a licensed venue other than a church (they get legal approval rather than God’s). A marriage has to be between a man and a woman. Civil partnerships were created as a way of getting around this, creating a loophole in many ways, that allowed same sex partners to enjoy the same security that married couples do. What then is the point of a heterosexual couple joining in a civil partnership? Both Tom and Katherine explain that their primary reason for not getting married is that they do not want to be part of an institution from which gay and lesbian people are excluded. I’ll leave you to think about that one.

I do feel it is a little odd to restrict people to different types of arrangement on the basis of their sexuality. To this end, I would not have a problem if gay couples were married in the true sense, or if heterosexual couples wanted civil partnerships. The main difference really is the wording used. People should be free to marry, co-habit, or be civilised together depending on what suits them best. After all, the “divorce” process is almost the same already.

That said, it is perhaps going a bit far to suggest that current civil partnerships are “heterophobic”. That would be going too far.

Andrew Woolley
Divorce Solicitor

Comments and response - Will you civil partnership me

It will be interesting to see what we can learn from this new generation….

By Sherry Adler on Saturday October 30, 2010

Sherry, Yes, indeed. These days instead of going out on the streets or staging a “sit in” at University, people seem to be creating legal cases and pursuing them to final appeals. Not sure if that is better, but maybe I am just nostalgic!...

By Andrew Woolley on Saturday October 30, 2010

Re: ‘Tom and Katherine’. I am thinking about it, and their mulish right-on po-facedness appears, in my opinion, not heroic or helpful, but rather a tempting invitation to offer a slap with a wet kipper, because this is logic divorced from reason. It’s another thin end of a potentially massive and crazy wedge. The law might be ‘an ass’ sometimes, but the point of it is that it is bigger than the individual. If such as this prevails, a new demand will surely emerge, using the shoulders of new precedent to stand upon. Extrapolating such arguments to the max…why don’t we all say, we want this, well I want that, and push for the creation of a law that says we should all be a law unto ourselves, all possible bases covered, we need recognise no mores at all that are not self-approved? ...

By Katie-Ellen Hazeldine on Saturday October 30, 2010

Those people are pathetic and should really get a life.

By Simon"Telemarketing" Owens on Saturday October 30, 2010

Thank you all for your comments! These days seem to be the decade when people make legal points through the Courts so maybe we should be relieved they do so that way than through more aggressive means? But I can’t help think there is just too much law. As soon as a law is made, there are arguments about the precise meaning, appeals and points made. It all just multiplies. Actually, it tends to just get in the way of what we are all, surely, trying to do: resolve unhappy relationships in as sensible and non damaging way as possible….

By Andrew Woolley on Monday November 15, 2010

This couple have their principles, and are choosing to boycott the marriage institution for being discriminatory.  Good for them….

By Sam Rowan on Thursday November 18, 2010


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