By Alys Hewitt
Last week the government announced the decision to extend the right to choose between the options of civil partnership and marriage to heterosexual couples in England and Wales. This has come after much pressure from campaigners and couples who wish to legitimise their relationship without getting married, most notably Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan, who had expressed their wishes to be part of “a more modern, symmetrical institution” and way of life.
This bill could potentially signal a move away from the prominence of marriage in our society. Since they were originally designed for same-sex couples who couldn’t lawfully get married, civil partnerships stand as an alternative to marriage, perhaps one which is not so dominated by the influence of religion or traditional patriarchal relations.
In my eyes, this can only be a good thing – while I do question the need to legitimise relationships in any format (what’s wrong with simply cohabiting?), it is understandable that some couples might want to benefit from the legal protections offered by formally recognising a relationship, but still not want to get married.
Marriage has remained a monolithic institution since its conception, and I welcome any challenge to its values – many of which are outdated, particularly those which revolve around the ideas of ownership and property surrounding women. And, judging by the public pressure and response to the government’s move this week, many people are similarly disenfranchised with the idea of marriage, favouring a more equal form of legal partnership.