June 2021 – Mixed Sex Civil Partnerships Up & Running

Author: Mitchells Roberton
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The essentials

  • From 30th June couples will be able to enter mixed-sex civil partnerships.
  • The term “mixed-sex” is perhaps not as transparent as “opposite sex” or “different sex” but was purposefully chosen by the Scottish Government on the basis that “mixed-sex” was considered to be more inclusive. (Having said that one sees that the Explanatory Notes to the Civil Partnership (Scotland) At 2020 use the term “different sex”.)
  • In order to enter into a mixed-sex civil partnership on 30th June the couple would have to have submitted a “notice of intention” to do so on 1st June given that (as with marriage and same-sex civil partnerships) there is a requirement for a clear 28-day notice period before the ceremony may take place.
  • The Registrar General does however have a discretion to waive this notice requirement where there is a pressing need; for example, if someone is seriously ill or is in the armed forces and is being posted overseas.
  • The introduction of mixed sex civil partnerships means that both mixed sex and same sex couples can now choose either to marry or enter a civil partnership.

Some more of the background

  • The Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act 2020 (“the 2020 Act”) which introduced mixed-sex civil partnership in Scotland was passed by the Scottish Parliament on 23rd June 2020 but it is only now that regulations activating the relevant provisions of the 2020 Act have effect. (The regulations have the snappy title of the “Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act 2020 (Commencement No. 3, Saving and Transitional Provision) Regulations 2021/23”.)
  • Following these regulations, couples have been able to submit a notice of intention to enter a mixed sex civil partnership in Scotland from 1 June 2021.

The overall scheme of the 2020 Act

  • The main aim of the 2020 Act was to make civil partnership available to mixed-sex couples. So, as might be expected, the general scheme of the Act is simply to provide for the necessary amendments to the Civil Partnership Act 2004 which already provides for same sex couples to enter into a civil partnership.
  • The Civil Partnership Act 2004 created in the UK a new form of legal relationship: the civil partnership. It was made available only to same sex couples as an alternative to marriage, which was not then a legal relationship available to them.
  • That changed, in Scotland, with the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) 2014 which allowed same sex couples to marry.
  • This resulted in same sex couples having a choice between marriage or civil partnership, while marriage remained the only form of legally recognised relationship available to mixed-sex sex couples.
  • In 2018, the UK Supreme Court found that difference in treatment in England and Wales to be incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.
  • The 2020 Act removes that difference in treatment in Scotland by extending the option to enter into a civil partnership to mixed-sex sex couples.
  • Following on from that essential aim the 2020 Act also:
    • makes consequential amendments to Scottish family law;
    • allows for the recognition of certain overseas relationships between mixed-sex couples;
    • allows provision to be made to enable the parties to a marriage to change their relationship into a civil partnership;
    • makes consequential amendments to legislation concerning gender recognition; and
    • creates an offence of forcing someone into a civil partnership

Note: This material is for information purposes only and does not constitute any form of advice or recommendation by us. You should not rely upon it in making any decisions or taking or refraining from taking any action. If you would like us to advise you on any of the matters covered in this material, please contact Fiona Wayman: email Fiona@mitchells-roberton.co.uk

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