As a country we have made huge and welcome strides toward equality in law and in life. I am proud that many of these were introduced by the previous Labour Government, including the introduction of civil partnerships for same sex couples.
I recognise, however, that a number of organisations continue to campaign for civil partnerships to be extended to opposite sex couples.
During the passage of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013, the Shadow Frontbench tabled an amendment to ensure that a review, including a public consultation, of the operation and future of civil partnerships would be undertaken as soon as possible.
Following this consultation, the Coalition Government stated in 2014 that it would not be making any changes to the law regarding civil partnerships, and the current Government has since reaffirmed this position. Indeed, the Government has stated it believes the current availability of civil partnerships to be compatible under the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR).
I recognise that the Government’s decision will have come as a disappointment to many people, including supporters of the Equal Civil Partnerships campaign.
I am aware of a Ten Minute Rule Bill to amend the Civil Partnership Act, to allow opposite sex couples to enter a civil partnership, which was introduced to Parliament last year. The Bill was scheduled to have its Second Reading debate on 29th January 2016, but unfortunately ran out of parliamentary time and was not debated. The Bill is now scheduled to have its Second Reading debate on 11th March 2016, and I hope it will be successful this time.