Here we look at what Civil Partnerships mean and also, as many of us do and have done, cohabitation with your partner and what rights, if any, you have.

“The Lesbian & Gay Foundation (along with other LGB&T rights groups in the UK) believe in full marriage equality for those lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people who wish to get married, and likewise that civil partnerships should be available to heterosexual couples.

Equality means that we all have the same access to the legal opportunities to express our love and commitment, and at the moment this is not the case.”

Civil Partnerships

  • Civil partners are entitled to the same property rights, the same exemptions on inheritance tax, social security and pension benefits as married couples.
  • If an employer gives benefits to opposite sex, unmarried partners of its employees, refusing the same benefits to same-sex partners could be discrimination.
  • Civil partners have the same ability to get parental responsibility for a partner’s children as well as reasonable maintenance, tenancy rights, insurance and next-of-kin rights in hospital and with doctors and recognition for immigration purposes and exemption from testifying against each other in court.

Basic differences from marriage

  • One important difference is that Civil Partnerships do not have equal recognition in all countries of the world. Currently, same-sex couples are not guaranteed to retain the rights given by their existing Civil Partnership when travelling in the European Union. At present a heterosexual marriage certificate is recognised by other countries when a heterosexual couple move abroad, but the same isn’t true of other legal documents such as a Civil Partnership certificate.
  • A Civil Partnership doesn’t need to include vows.
  • You do not have to consummate a Civil Partnership.

What about civil partnerships in religious settings?

In February 2011 the Government expressed its intention to allow civil partnerships to take place in religious venues and it is expected that soon civil marriage will be recognised in the UK.

Under the latest proposed change to allow civil partnerships in some religious settings, churches, synagogues and other faith organisations will be able to host civil partnership registrations.

However no religious group can be forced to host a civil partnership against its will.

To make this possible, each religious group will have to agree to allow it’s premises to hold civil partnerships. This will involve the governing body of the religious group (if they have one) to deciding whether they will allow this to happen or not.

It is planned that soon religious premises willing to allow civil partnerships will have to apply through their local authorities for a licence. It is hoped however that this current proposal, will eventually lead to full equal marriage rights in the future.

The Government Equalities Office recently undertook a consultation on civil partnerships in religious settings.

Registering a civil partner's death

If one partner dies, the registrar will ask the person registering the death questions about whether the deceased was in a Civil Partnership.

Rights and responsibilities following the death of a Civil Partner

  • Right to register the death of a partner
  • Right to claim a survivor pension
  • Eligibility for bereavement benefits
  • Compensation for fatal accidents or criminal injuries
  • Recognition under inheritance and intestacy rules
  • Tenancy succession rights

Benefits and Bereavement

You can get a bereavement benefit if you and your same-sex partner who has died, registered a civil partnership.

If your partner (married, civil or cohabiting), someone else in your family or a close friend dies, and you are on a low income, you may be able to get help with funeral costs.

For more see:

See also Pensions and civil partners

If you want to dissolve a Civil Partnership

If a Civil Partnership breaks down, you may want to consult for relationship counselling.

In terms of property and money, civil partners can make claims on each other’s finances. It is recommended to consult legal advice to assist with coming to a financial settlement with your partner, seeking fair arrangements for property division, residence arrangements and appropriate contact with children.

HM Courts Service has a useful breakdown of the whole dissolution process, under the civil partnership dissolution page at:

“Civil Partnerships- Everything You Need to Know”

This latest guide from Stonewall’s Information Service gives an overview of civil partnership law for lesbian, gay and bisexual people.

How does this affect trans people?

By law, ‘marriage’ is defined as the union of one man and one woman.

Furthermore, under the current system Civil Partnerships are restricted to same-sex couples and marriage is restricted to opposite sex couples.

So if a person is undergoing gender reassignment, they would either have to dissolve their civil partnership or have their marriage annulled, before realising their ultimate gender identity to be with the same partner.

See also What about Trans Equality?

Cohabitation/Living Together

Although cohabitants are now given legal protection in several areas, they and their families have significantly fewer rights and responsibilities than people who are married or who have formed a civil partnership.

Most people think that, after they’ve been living with their partner for a couple of years, they become ‘common law husband and wife’ with the same rights as married couples. This is not the case. In fact, couples who live together have hardly any of the same rights as married couples or civil partners.

A Cohabitation agreement and/or Declaration of Trust will offer some protection but it is worth seeking legal advice or try taking a look at these useful links below.

Cohabitation at

Information on the current rights of cohabiting couples for both opposite and same-sex cohabitants can be found here:

For more information about the differences in the legal position of married and unmarried couples:

August 2011