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Civil Partnership Act 2004

The Civil Partnership Act 2004 grants legal status to gay and lesbian couples in the United Kingdom. The Act entered into force on 5 December 2005, allowing same-sex couples to form civil partnerships starting from December 19. The Act also places cohabiting gay and lesbian couples on the same legal basis as cohabiting heterosexual couples, with implications for taxes and benefits.

The Act introduces the concept of civil partnerships into the law of England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. After registering a civil partnership, partners will gain certain rights and obligations with respect to each other. For example, inheritance tax will be waived as it is with married couples, and there will be a right of succession for tenancy. These civil partnerships are aimed at same-sex couples and are not available to couples of opposite sex. However, the rights and responsibilities of a civil partnership are not limited to gay and lesbian couples; they are legally available to “almost any unrelated couple of the same sex”.[1]

The first civil partnership was created on 5 December 2005 under a special procedure of the Act, allowing a man terminally ill with cancer to form a partnership with his partner one day before he died.Template:NamedRef The most prominent partnership to date is that of Sir Elton John and his partner David Furnish (21 December 2005). Between 11,000 and 22,000 people are expected to enter into civil partnerships by 2010.[2]

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 March 31, 2004. It received Royal Assent on November 18, 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 December 19 in Northern Ireland, December 20 in Scotland and December 21 in England and Wales. Scotland’s Parliament voted in favour of a Sewel motion allowing Westminster to legislate for Scotland in this Act.

As a Bill it met with broad support from all of the UK’s major political parties. However, it also faced criticism on several fronts—from people worried that marriage would be diluted by extending the rights of it to others, from people who feel the government should simply extend marriage itself, and from opposite-sex couples who wished themselves to have the right to enter into a non-marriage civil partnership.

In the debate on the Bill in the House of Lords on June 24, 2004, an amendment, seen by some as a wrecking amendment, to extend eligibility for civil partnership to blood relatives who had lived together for a minimum period of time, such as children caring for elderly parents, was moved by Conservative peer Baroness O’Cathain and approved. 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 November 17, and the Bill received Royal Assent the next day.

External links

Drafts of the Act