Other comments on the future of civil partnerships
68. The responses to the consultation included a number of other points which relate to the subject of civil partnerships in Scotland, but which are not directly arguments for or against the options set out. Some of these were responses to question 9, which asked for other comments.
Question 9. Do you have any other comments?
If yes, please outline these comments.
These points included:
The Equality Network noted that the ‘use of the term “opposite sex couples” in the consultation paper is not inclusive of non-binary people, and is inconsistent with the term used in marriage legislation, which is “persons of different sexes”’. Stonewall Scotland also made this point.
- Changing marriages to civil partnerships
The consultation did not discuss changing marriages to civil partnerships. However, some respondents stated that they would have preferred to enter into a civil partnership rather than marry had that choice been available.
- Registration of civil partnership by religious or belief bodies: exemption in the Equality Act 2010
In Scotland, same sex civil partnership can be registered by religious or belief bodies. There are exemptions in the Equality Act 2010 for religious or belief bodies who do not wish to register civil partnership or solemnise same sex marriage. The consultation suggested no exemption would be needed in the 2010 Act for religious or belief bodies who do not wish to register mixed sex civil partnership.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission agreed, saying that ‘A religious or belief body that decides not to register civil partnership in general would not be discriminating on the grounds of sex or sexual orientation, as it does not provide the service to anyone.’
However, the Equality Network disagreed, saying:
‘… we consider that it may be necessary to extend the religious and belief body exemption in the Equality Act. This could be needed where a religious body did not support same-sex marriage, but decided to register civil partnerships for same-sex couples instead. The body might consider, consistent with its doctrines, that it was not appropriate to register mixed-sex civil partnerships (but only to offer mixed-sex marriage). We do not think such a body should fall foul of the Equality Act by declining to register civil partnerships for mixed-sex couples.’
- Opposition to same sex marriage
Although this consultation did not seek views on the future of same sex marriage, a number of responses presented the view that marriage should be for mixed sex couples only and that this form of marriage is an important foundation for society. In some cases, this view was presented as an argument against mixed sex civil partnership.
- Adultery and civil partnership law
It was suggested by some responses, including that from the Equality Network, that adultery should not form part of the law on civil partnership given that sexual infidelity can be considered as unreasonable behaviour and demonstration of irretrievable breakdown of the partnership, and thus grounds for dissolution.
However, the Glasgow Bar Association highlighted the inconsistency between civil partnerships and marriage in this regard and suggested that this ‘may be a reason to abolish adultery as a separate ground of divorce'.
- The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008
The consultation paper suggested that the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 is reserved, and that if mixed sex civil partnership were introduced then the Scottish Government would therefore need to discuss its approach to this subject with the UK Government. The proposal set out in the consultation paper was that a male civil partner of a woman at the time of assisted conception and would be treated as the father of the child and would have Parental Responsibilities and Rights unless it can be shown that he did not consent to the treatment.
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