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SHOULD WE ALLOW HETEROSEXUAL COUPLES THE RIGHT TO A CIVIL PARTNERSHIP?

Sana Fatima Khan discusses whether civil partnerships should be legalised for heterosexual couples

On 2nd October 2018, Theresa May announced that heterosexual couples would be allowed the right to a civil partnership like same-sex couples do. The move comes after a heterosexual couple fought for four years to be allowed a civil partnership. I rejoiced at the news.

It’s about time that heterosexual couples get to enjoy the choice of a civil partnership or a marriage because today’s society is progressing and slowly moving away from the traditional outlook on marriage. No couple should be restricted in the way they legally recognise themselves.

But for some people, it may be harder to accept that heterosexual couples have just been allowed the right of a civil partnership much more freely and easily than homosexual couples who fought tirelessly for years, suffered homophobia and backlash before the government provided them with the opportunity of a civil partnership. And I completely understand, that isn’t equality, but neither is it equality denying heterosexual couples the right to an alternative to a marriage, there needs to be choice in society today.

“the way we perceive marriage and unity as a couple is changing and the idea of a civil partnership seems promising”

Civil partnerships were introduced in 2004, allowing homosexual couples the benefits of a marriage, such as legal rights to inheritance and property as they were not allowed the right to marriage until 2013. Whilst it was introduced for homosexual couples, fourteen years later, the way we perceive marriage and unity as a couple is changing and the idea of a civil partnership seems promising.

The key difference between marriage and a civil partnership is that marriage is usually unified through a ceremony, be it religious or civil in comparison to civil partnerships where only a legally binding document is signed. Adultery cannot be used as a reason for ending a partnership unlike marriage and neither can civil partners refer to themselves as married.

A civil partnership is also alluring due to the reason that a marriage can be patriarchal. Women in heterosexual couples usually take their husband’s last name and are referred to as a ‘Mrs’, the ‘Mr’s possession. Civil partnerships are built on equality, both partners are equal, and it removes the traditional element of marriage, offering security and protection.

“I’d still pick a marriage due to cultural reasons because a civil partnership is not viewed as the equivalent as a marriage in the Asian community. One day, I hope civil partnerships are embraced equally”

What would I pick? I’d still pick a marriage due to cultural reasons because a civil partnership is not viewed as the equivalent as a marriage in the Asian community. One day, I hope civil partnerships are embraced equally.

But whilst a civil partnership appears to provide benefits to couples, it does come with cons. And this is exemplified by countries such as Bulgaria and Slovakia who do not recognise civil partnerships, so emigration could be difficult, especially in countries where marriage is of significance. This is where marriage reaps its benefits, it’s available everywhere and often seen as the last step in a couple’s relationship.

It should be every couple’s choice to choose between a marriage or a civil partnership, there’s pros and cons to both and no couple ought to be restricted in what is an important part of their life. Heterosexual couples should not be denied the right to a civil partnership, it cannot be viewed as exclusive for homosexual couples.

“should we be rethinking the way marriage works and how people are recognised legally?”

However, should we be rethinking the way marriage works and how people are recognised legally? Could there be more than just civil partnerships and marriage but a much more personalised, tailored ‘contract’ in the way two people come together?

Are we slowly losing the traditions of marriage in favour of the progressive civil partnership that lets us leave behind the ‘outdated’ marriage? Maybe not yet, but in several years down the line we could see a trend in people favouring civil partnerships.

Sana Fatima Khan

Featured image courtesy of Alex Indigo via Flickr. Image license found here.

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