British Prime Minister Theresa May announced last month that all couples in England and Wales will be given the option to legally recognize their relationships as either a marriage or a civil partnership.
Established in 2004 and previously only available to same-sex couples, a civil partnership differs from a marriage because it does not align with any particular religion. This option is beneficial for individuals who do not want to consider religious aspects as a factor of marriage.
Unlike marriage, entering a civil partnership is as simple as signing a document. In England and Wales, each traditional marriage is accompanied by a ceremony with an exchange of vows and religious hymns. However, these requirements are eliminated once a couple enters a civil partnership, unless desired. Members of a civil partnership are also supposed to disregard the typical terms “husband” and “wife” and instead use “civil partners.”
Despite these differences, both marriages and civil partnerships have legal recognition and receive essentially the same benefits and rights, with few, trivial exceptions.
The civil partnership system is viable for adoption in the United States because of its universal connotations. This is especially useful in a political climate where the separation of church and state maintains constant relevance.
According to the Pew Research Center, 22.8 percent of Americans do not identify with any specific religion, and another 0.6 percent are simply unsure. In this case, a civil partnership is especially ideal, giving all individuals without religious affiliation the chance to join as a legal union.
Forming a connection with another individual and formally declaring it should not be restricted by historic and religious practices. Although marriage does not necessarily mandate “an establishment of religion,” as stated by the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, it has inevitable roots in religious tradition.
Another advantage of civil partnerships over the outdated customs of marriage is present in terms of greater gender equality.
Civil partnerships could be favored by those who see marriage as steeped in patriarchal tradition, in which women are “given away” by their fathers and promise to “obey” their husbands, according to the Independent.
Overall, the civil partnership option indicates a more progressive government with broader individual liberties. Although initially created to separate same-sex unions from implications of marriage, a now more accepting society can use it for heterosexual couples to express joint relationships with no religious strings attached.