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Civil Unions

August 11, 2021

This article was first published in Gallery magazine.

Currently, only those in a same-sex couple can enter into a civil partnership in Jersey. In England, civil partnerships have also been available to couples of the opposite sex since 31 December 2019. That was widely hailed as an important step along the road of equality – ensuring that both marriage and civil partnership are options for everyone.

It is considered by many to be a breach of human rights to limit civil partnerships only to those in a same-sex couple. In Jersey, we moved closer to equality in enabling same-sex couples to get married in Jersey from 1 July 2018.

There was support for the proposition that opposite-sex couples should also be able to enter into civil partnerships following an Equal Marriage consultation in August 2014 and again in 2018. A ministerial decision in October 2020 requested amendments to the law to, in essence, enable ‘equal civil partnerships’ as well as ‘equal marriage’. The law has yet to be amended.

Is a civil partnership any different from marriage? Once registered, a civil partnership confers the same rights and responsibilities as marriage. It is effected by the signing of a civil partnership document as opposed to making vows. A marriage ceremony might have a religious element whereas a civil partnership ceremony is entirely civil. If a civil partnership breaks down, the process is called dissolution rather than divorce, but the same financial remedies are available. It is also possible to convert a civil partnership into a marriage.

It is important to dispel the myth that a civil partnership is a form of “common law” marriage. There is no such thing and no matter how long a couple lives together, they are only protected in the eyes of the law upon a separation if they have a civil partnership or a marriage.

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