The second reading of a private members which would have extended civil partnerships to heterosexual couples has been adjourned till March.
The bill was tabled by Conservative MP Tim Loughton, in response to claims by campaigners that the continuing availability of civil partnerships to same sex couples despite the introduction of gay marriage is discriminates against the straight couples who cannot access them.
During a second reading of the bill in the House of Commons, the MP for East Worthing and Shoreham, a former Children’s Minister, cited cohabitation statistics:
“The Office for National Statistics estimates that there are just under three million cohabiting opposite-sex couples in this country—almost double the figure reported some 15 years earlier—of whom over a third, about 38 per cent, have children. Indeed, cohabitation is the fastest growing form of family in the UK.”
He also quoted Stowe Family Law Senior Partner Marilyn Stowe, saying:
“Last week, there was a very supportive article in the Solicitors Journal, which referred to the current anomaly as “discriminatory”. Marilyn Stowe, the senior partner at Stowe Family Law, said: ‘To some couples the concept of marriage is outdated. They do not wish to marry but equally seek a legally recognised civil union where vows and promises to each other are not required.’ “
Fellow Conservative MP Rebecca Pow backed the bill, saying:
“My honourable Friend is making a very sound case. I was fascinated to hear the current statistics on cohabiting. If we are to build a balanced society, bringing up our children in a fair and good way, surely it is very important to bring forward the ideas encompassed in this Bill in order to help society as a whole.”
But the time available for the second reading was exhausted following intervention by Robert Halfon, the Minister for Apprenticeships and Skills, who made a number of lengthy contributions ten minutes before the scheduled end of the debate.
No vote was taken and the debate was adjourned till 24 March.
Read the full debate here.