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Civil Partnership Bill passes its first stage

By David Porter

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New legislation that will allow mixed sex couples to enter a civil partnership for the first time in Scotland has passed its first stage in Parliament.

Shirley Anne-Somerville.
Shirley Anne-Somerville.

MSPs have voted to support the general principles of the Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill, which will extend to mixed sex couples the rights given to same sex couples in 2004.

Social Security and Older People Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said: “I welcome Parliament’s endorsement of the general principles of the Bill, which will give all couples the same choices when they decide they want to make a lasting commitment to each other through a legally recognised relationship.

“Just like same sex couples, mixed sex couples will be able to choose to enter into a civil partnership or a marriage if they feel this is right for them.

“Fundamentally this Bill is about equality, fairness and choice and is part of the Scottish Government’s commitment to create a fairer Scotland that promotes equality and human rights for all.”

The Scottish Government consulted on two options for civil partnership in Scotland in 2018: scrapping civil partnership or making it available to mixed sex couples.

In 2018 the UK Supreme Court ruled the introduction of same sex marriage had resulted in the Civil Partnership Act 2004 no longer being compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights on equality grounds, because it denied mixed sex couples the opportunity to enter into civil partnerships, while same sex couples had the choice of either marriage or civil partnership.

Following the Stage 1 vote, the Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill will proceed to amendments at Stage 2 and Stage 3 before a final vote of Parliament to pass the Bill.

Should it be enacted by Parliament, Royal Assent will then be needed.

Following that, a number of implementation tasks, including a package of secondary legislation, will be needed.

Other jurisdictions where mixed sex civil partnership has already been introduced include England and Wales, Northern Ireland, the Netherlands and New Zealand.

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