LONDON Men and women in Britain are to be allowed to form legal civil partnerships as an alternative to marriage, Prime Minister Theresa May told the Evening Standard in London.
It will remove an anomaly in which same sex couples can opt for marriage or civil partnerships, but heterosexual couples only have marriage as their option.
Around 3.3 million couples in Britain live together but are not married, nearly half of them with children. Despite fully sharing their financial responsibilities, the families lack the full legal rights offered by marriage or civil partnerships.
May told the Standard that for the first time ever gay and straight people will have the same choices in life.
Equality campaigners welcomed the pledge which means that, in future, both routes will be open to all couples, said the newspaper.
The reform could also help cohabiting couples who have fewer rights to inheritance, pensions and support for their children.
Martin Loat, chair of the Equal Civil Partnerships campaign group, hailed the announcement as an important step forward.
As well as finally making the law equal, the change will open up a new option for millions of couples who dislike the idea of traditional marriage but want full legal recognition of their relationship, which is vital to provide security for them and their children, said the report.
May said: “This change in the law helps protect the interests of opposite-sex couples who want to commit, want to formalize their relationship but don’t necessarily want to get married.”
Civil partnerships were first introduced by the then prime minister Tony Blair’s Labour government in 2004 to give gay people a right to marry in all but name.
Equalities Minister Penny Mordaunt told the Standard the latest measure would be an important step forward for equality and promised legislation will be brought before MPs “as swiftly as possible”.
She said: “There are all sorts of reasons why people may choose not to marry. By giving couples this option we hope to give them and their families more certainty and security.”