A civil partnership is a legal union for same-sex couples. Couples who enter in civil partnerships are granted rights and responsibilities that are very similar to those married couples have.
In 2014, a law was passed allowing same-sex couples to marry, and since that time, most couples wishing to be joined legally together have opted to marry, rather than enter into a civil partnership.
At the moment, opposite-sex couples cannot enter into civil partnerships. In June 2018, the Supreme Court held that this was in breach of the European Court of Human Rights. The government has said that it will change the law to allow opposite-couples to enter into civil partnerships – but the date for this has not yet been set.
Entering in a civil partnership
A civil partnership is legally formed when a couple signs the civil partnership document (called the schedule) in the presence of a registrar and two witnesses. There is no prescribed ceremony for the couple, although there are words printed on the schedule which many couples choose to say.
You can find a list of premises approved to carry out marriages and civil partnerships here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/civil-marriages-and-partnerships-approved-premises-list
Converting a civil partnership into a marriage
A civil partnership entered into in England or Wales can be converted into a marriage by appointment at a register office. The law does not yet allow for a civil partnership entered into outside of England and Wales to be converted into a marriage.
The couple attend an appointment at a register office, taking with them:
- evidence of their name and date of birth, for example, current passports or birth certificates;
- evidence of their address, for example, recent utilities bills;
- the original civil partnership certificate.
The couple sign a document stating that they agree to convert their civil partnership into marriage, and are happy to become one another’s lawful husband or wife. If the couple wishes to make this declaration out loud to one another, they can. The registrar also signs the document. The marriage is then registered and the couple will get a marriage certificate.