Just days after the capital city of Edinburgh held its Pride, Scottish lawmakers have announced they will extend civil partnerships to opposite sex couples.
The move dovetails with the rest of the UK – England and Wales – as a Supreme Court ruling declared last year that not giving opposite sex couples access to the legal arrangement is an issue of human rights.
But while opposite sex couples can look forward to the alternative to marriage, trans people remain impatient after Parliament postponed a vital update to the Gender Recognition Act.
Civil partnerships: What happened?
In a press release on the Scottish Government website, it was revealed that ministers will introduce the bill to ‘ensure opposite sex couples and same-sex couples have the same choices’ in the Fall.
The measure comes after months of public consultation, according to the press release. Wherein, citizens were asked to decide between broadening access or scrapping the legal arrangement altogether.
Moreover, ministers were motivated to move in this way after a UK Supreme Court ruling last year.
The ruling declared that the UK Civil Partnership Act 2004 was not compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights on equality grounds. As it prevents opposite sex couples from entering into civil partnerships.
As a result, ministers acted fast. Following the consultations, lawmakers concluded that introducing civil partnerships to non-same-sex couples ‘would be the best way to remove the ECHR incompatibility from the law in Scotland.’
‘Equality and choice for all’
Scottish cabinet secretary for social security and older people Shirley-Anne Somerville said: ‘Extending civil partnerships to opposite sex couples gives equality and choice to all.
‘All couples will now have the option of a civil partnership or marriage which is a ground breaking change for Scotland.
‘We will be providing people with the option to enter into a legally recognised relationship which reflects their personal views.’
One step forward, one step back
While LGBTI activists and allies may welcome the news of accessible civil partnerships, it comes only a few days after Parliament postponed crucial legislation updates that would have vastly benefited the lives of the country’s trans citizens.
Trans people who want to change their legally recognized gender are able to apply under the GRA.
Parliament pitched to move to a self-identification system. But amid criticism from transphobic groups, the legislative postponed it for a public consultation.
‘Gender recognition reform is a higher priority’
Tim Hopkins, director of the Equality Network spoke to Gay Star News about the how anti-trans groups are enacting a ‘sustained major campaign against trans equality.’
As a result, in part, of inaccuracies spread by such groups, the Scottish government announced the public consultation.
Which, to Hopkins, will ‘build support for [the bill]. That support is needed to ensure that the actual bill passes with a good majority.’
Whereas, on civil partnerships, as the court order meant that not taking action would mean ‘finding themselves [Scotland] in court,’ this, in part, explains the parliament’s ‘prompt action.
‘So although gender recognition reform is a higher priority for us, the political and legal realities mean the civil partnership bill will appear first.’