A civil partnership already gives same-sex couples legal equality with heterosexual married couples on child maintenance, life assurance, immigration rights, inheritance, state and private pensions , although there are slight differences with pensions.
The main differences between a civil partnership and gay marriage are:
- With one you become a married couple and the other you are civil partners.
- They are defined under separate legal regimes – Civil Partnership Act 2004 versus Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 and older marriage legislation.
- Only gay couples can enter into a civil partnership.
- A civil partnership can be converted into a marriage.
- A marriage is formed by saying some specific words and in a civil partnership no words are required; the couple only need to sign the civil partnership document.
- A same-sex marriage can be part of a religious ceremony where this is allowed by a particular religion.
- A marriage can be dissolved if either couple is suffering from an STD (sexually transmitted disease) at the time of the ceremony.
- Finally, adultery is grounds for a divorce in a marriage, but that is not something that can be cited as grounds for ending a civil partnership.
Note: This article applies to England and Wales.