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Civil Partnerships 10 years On: Researchers Explore Same-Sex Couples' Experiences

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Researchers from the University of Worcester and Coventry University are asking same-sex couples from across the UK to tell them about their views and experiences 10 years on from the introduction of the Civil Partnerships Act 2004.

The act – introduced on December 5th 2005 – created the new legally recognised relationship of ‘civil partner’ for the first time in the UK, giving same-sex couples access to rights and responsibilities previously reserved for those who are married.

Eight years later, the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 was introduced alongside the Civil Partnerships Act, effectively giving same-sex couples in England, Wales and Scotland two different ways for their relationship to be recognised in the eyes of the law.

The universities’ researchers want couples who are currently – or have previously been – in a civil partnership or same-sex marriage to take part in an online survey to find out what these different options mean to them.

Since the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act came into force, the number of people in England and Wales registering civil partnerships has fallen by 70% according to the Office for National Statistics, and many same-sex couples in England and Wales are now converting their civil partnerships to marriages.

Meanwhile, civil partnership remains the only option for same-sex couples in Northern Ireland, which has yet to legislate to allow same-sex marriage. There are also calls – in the form of the Equal Civil Partnerships campaign – for civil partnerships to be opened up to opposite-sex couples.

Dr Adam Jowett and Professor Elizabeth Peel are both social scientists and previously conducted research on civil partnership when it was first introduced back in 2005.

“We have a situation where there are two parallel forms of legal recognition for same-sex couples to choose from, and we don’t know how couples view these two institutions,” said Elizabeth Peel, Professor of Psychology and Social Change at the University of Worcester. “We want to know why people are choosing one over the other, and why people are choosing to convert their civil partnership to a marriage – or, indeed, why they have chosen not to.

“Back when civil partnerships were introduced, we conducted a study similar to this one. Many of the people we spoke to were treating their civil partnership as a marriage, and used the language of ‘marriage’ – although some people did not want to model their civil partnership on heterosexual marriage. This new study is seeking to find out how the landscape has changed, what these two forms of legal recognition mean to same-sex couples, and how it has affected their relationships and family lives.”

Those wishing to take part in or learn more about the survey should visit the following link: https://coventry.onlinesurveys.ac.uk/civil-partnership-same-sex-marriage