The Civil Partnership Act of 2004 has been in force in the United Kingdom for almost three years. A civil partnership confers on same-sex couples the same mutual rights, benefits, and responsibilities in domestic law as marriage does on spouses, and it gives each civil partner the legal status of being the other’s nearest kin.
There is no legally prescribed form of ceremony for the registration of civil partnerships, but any wording the parties propose has to be cleared beforehand with the registrar. The Civil Partnership Act specifies that “no religious service is to be used while the civil partnership registrar is officiating at the signing of a civil partnership document.” The act also requires that the place where the civil partnership is formally celebrated “must not be in religious premises.” In all this, it parallels the prohibitions that already apply to civil registry office marriages. For example, Section 45(2) of the Marriage Act of 1949 provides that “no religious service shall be used at any marriage solemnized in the office of a superintendent registrar.” Parties to a civil marriage (for example, the Prince of Wales and Camilla Parker Bowles) are free to have a religious ceremony afterward; and the same applies to parties to a civil partnership, if any church will have them.
After our own civil partnership ceremony, my partner and I chose not to seek any church blessing. The...
Aidan O’Neill is a writer and lawyer based in Edinburgh, Scotland. In 2007-2008 he was the University Center for Human Values/Law and Public Affairs Joint Fellow in Law and Normative Inquiry at Princeton University.