In our post Civil partnerships, the ECHR and discrimination between same-sex and opposite-sex couples we suggested that in view of recent decisions at the ECtHR, the DCMS should expedite its consultation on the introduction of opposite-sex civil partnerships in England and Wales, as required by section 15 of the Marriage (same Sex Couples) Act 2013. This states
15. Review of civil partnership
(1) The Secretary of State must arrange
(a) for the operation and future of the Civil Partnership Act 2004 in England and Wales to be reviewed, and
(b) for a report on the outcome of the review to be produced and published.
(2) Subsection (1) does not prevent the review from also dealing with other matters relating to civil partnership.
(3) The arrangements made by the Secretary of State must provide for the review to begin as soon as practicable and include a full public consultation.
On 23 January 2014, the Government Equalities Office, Department for Culture, Media & Sport published the Consultation on the future of civil partnership in England and Wales. The government’s reluctance at the inclusion of section 15 within the Act is echoed in the introductory statement of Helen Grant MP, Minister for Sport, Tourism and Equalities
“These measures are not Government policy proposals – they are ideas for changing civil partnership which others have suggested. We will carefully consider responses alongside other evidence in deciding the future of civil partnership in England and Wales”,
and in the statement on the Impact Assessment,
“None of the potential changes to civil partnership described in this consultation paper are currently Government proposals and an impact assessment has not been prepared on them at this stage. Costs and benefits will be assessed as part of the review and an impact assessment will accompany any subsequent consultation on any specific proposals that follow it,”
which the cynical might view as an early hint of a “get-out clause”.
The closing date is 17 April 2014, and those wishing to respond should: complete the online survey; or complete a response form and either: email to: email@example.com or send to: Civil Partnership Review consultation responses, Government Equalities Office/DCMS, 4th Floor, 100 Parliament Street, London, SW1A 2BQ.
The GEO/DCMS Consultation on caste discrimination – another policy imposed contrary to government policy – is expected “in February or March 2014”.