Civil Partnership vs Marriage – What’s the difference?

If you're wanting to commit to your partner, there are a couple of options open for you. Find out what they are in this blog!

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We’re in 2022 now, and long gone are the days of whiny Mary Whitehouse trying to push her strict opinions on everyone she sees. As the world becomes more accepting, and people are more comfortable in their own skin, family dynamics are changing.

Marriage laws are a good example of that. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve still got a long way to go, but the darkest days of homophobia are, thankfully, behind us. It was once a literal crime to be in a LGBTQIA+ relationship. Now, in England at least, LGBTQIA+ couples can get married.

In this blog, it’s civil partnership vs marriage. We’re going to take a look at LGBTQIA+ marriage and what it means. We’re going to talk about civil partnerships and LGBTQIA+ marriages. We’ll look at how they’re similar, how they’re different, and what that means for you and your relationship.

What are Civil Partnerships?

Before 2005 (which is 17 years ago, believe it or not) society wasn’t quite ready for LGBTQIA+ marriages. Although they were becoming more and more common, LGBTQIA+ relationships weren’t accepted enough to be allowed to actually marry.

Instead, civil partnerships were introduced. They were a way to appease everyone; it allowed LGBTQIA+ partners to commit to each other in the eyes of the law, but, as they weren’t actual marriages, it didn’t upset the traditionalists who thought letting LGBTQIA+ couples marry would violate the sanctity of their marriages. Whatever that means.

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Civil Partnership vs Marriage – What’s the difference?

It sounds a lot like a marriage, probably ‘cos it is. Civil Partnerships are essentially marriages just packaged differently, although there are a couple of little differences that are worth keeping in mind – nothing too major, though. If you want to know every little difference (which is mainly boring, administrative stuff), there’s a list here.

For starters, a marriage is formed by the vows spoken during the marriage ceremony itself. At its bare bones a marriage is the vows – all the fancy cake and confetti are just for show. As long as those vows are spoken in front of a proper minister and the marriage certificate is signed, the marriage is legit. A civil partnership, on the other hand, is formed purely by the signing of a civil partnership certificate – vows have nothing to do with it, and although you can have a ceremony if you, want you don’t need.

If a marriage breaks down, you get a divorce, but if a civil partnership breaks down you get a dissolution. Again, they’re basically the same thing, just different words. Here’s a fun fact – adultery used to be a good enough reason for a divorce, but it wasn’t a good enough reason for a dissolution. Don’t know how they worked that one out, but it’s irrelevant now anyway – the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act (2020) brought in ‘no-fault divorces’. It’s worth keeping in mind that your union needs to be at least a year old before you can apply to end it.

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Civil Partnership vs Marriage – Which is right for me?

Ever since the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013, LGBTQIA+ couples have been able to marry. Religious organisations who feel comfortable doing so can opt-in to carry out LGBTQIA+ marriages, so everyone who wants to get married has the option to do so if they want.

But then you had a situation where LGBTQIA+ couples could marry or have a civil partnership, while heterosexual couples could only marry. Step forward Steinfeld & Keidan, a landmark legal case that ruled that denying heterosexual couples a civil partnership was a breach of their human rights. As of the 31st December 2019, any heterosexual couple can have a civil partnership. So, really, you can do whatever you want now. If you want to get married, go for it. If you’d prefer a civil partnership, you do you. The choice is yours.

Just depends on personal preference, really. The main reason heterosexual couples opt for civil partnerships seems to be ‘cos they disagree with the religious connotations of marriage and don’t want to be associated with it. If you’re an atheist with strong anti-religious opinions, a civil partnership is more appealing than a marriage, I guess.

Oh, and just so you know – if you’re currently in a civil partnership, you could pretty easily convert it into a marriage, if you wanted to. All you need to do’s sign a ‘conversion into marriage‘ declaration – you could do it quietly at a register office, or, if you’d prefer, you could have a proper ceremony. It costs, though.

Civil Partnership vs Marriage – Certificates

When you get married, you get a marriage certificate. When you have a civil partnership, you get given a civil partnership certificate. There’s not much to say about them, to be honest. They’re just certificates, issued by a government body, given to you after the civil union as an official recognition of you joining your lives together.

Generally they’re just nice little keepsakes from your union, but sometime you’ll need to use your marriage or civil partnership certificate. If you’re moving abroad, for example, you’ll probably need to provide your certificate as part of the application process. If you’re wanting to adopt as a couple, you’ll need your certificate.

If you’re taking on your partner’s surname, you’ll need the certificate to update all your documentation. That includes things like your passport, your driving licence, your bank account. Any organisation that has you on their records, basically – if you want them to change your name to reflect your union, you’ll need to provide the certificate.

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Sounds pretty obvious, this one, but if you’re wanting a divorce or to dissolve your civil partnership you’ll need the certificate to prove it existed in the first place. Why you’d be applying to end it if it didn’t exist beats me, but I suppose they need to make sure everything’s all official and proper.

Whichever you go for – a marriage or a civil partnership – if you’ve lost your certificate, or need a new copy of it, we can get one for you at Vital Certificates.

Declan Ramsden
Declan Ramsden

Declan is a Content Creator at Vital Consular. He studied English Literature for 4 years before joining the company. Outside of work, he enjoys listening to retro music and reading classic novels – particularly Charles Dickens!

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