Dundee Family Lawyer

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Civil partnerships a poor substitute for marriage, says study

A newly published piece of research from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) has claimed that civil partnerships have never been sufficient to meet the demands for full equality between gay and straight couples.

The study, by Cardiff University, found that same sex couples in the UK welcomed the introduction of civil partnerships in 2005, as they provided them with much needed legal rights, and made them feel more included and recognised by society.

Couples with children said that civil partnerships allowed them to be seen and officially recognised as families, offering them a status their children and others could understand and relate to. Civil partnership ceremonies also provided opportunities for family members as well as friends, neighbours and work colleagues to acknowledge gay and lesbian relationships.

But other couples felt that, for them, civil partnerships failed to have the same meaning as marriage. The words 'civil partnership' were unfamiliar, sounded bureaucratic and lacked the social status and cultural meanings that went with marriage. People weren't sure whether they could say they were getting married, or whether they had to awkwardly say they were getting 'civilly partnered'.

Although civil partnerships may well be pushed aside by same-sex marriage, the ESRC says that it is important not to overlook the contribution that civil partnerships made towards the greater visibility of same sex couples in UK society, and to challenging negative social attitudes towards homosexuality.

"Civil partnerships performed an important role in providing legal rights and increasing the visibility of same-sex couples," said Dr Mike Thomas, Social Policy Lecturer.

"Setting up a parallel status to marriage was probably never going to work in the long term because marriage is such an important social and cultural institution. However without civil partnerships we wouldn't have got to same sex marriage in 2014, so if we think about civil partnerships as a stepping-stone to fuller equality, they have done their job," he added.

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