UK

Where in Europe a man and woman can get a civil partnership

Opposite- sex couples Image copyright iStock
Image caption Opposite-sex couples in 11 European territories can enter civil partnership

People in the UK have been wondering where in Europe opposite-sex couples can choose civil partnership over marriage after a British heterosexual couple lost their legal fight to choose civil union.

Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan lost their case in the Court of Appeal to have a civil partnership.

Although the judges acknowledged there was a potential breach of the couple's human rights, they argued that the government should have more time to decide the future of civil partnership in the UK.

BBC readers asked which countries permit civil partnership for a man and a woman.

We looked into it - and the answer is that there are 11 places in Europe where opposite-sex couples can choose civil partnership in one form or another.

Image copyright iStock
Image caption Rights can vary for heterosexual couples in Europe in civil partnerships

What is a civil partnership in the UK?

  • Legally recognised union between a same-sex couple.
  • Couples in a civil partnership receive equal legal treatment including inheritance and next-of-kin arrangements
  • Partnership ceremonies can be conducted in private, whereas marriage ceremonies must be public and can be conducted by clergy
  • Failed partnerships require dissolution, like divorce
  • Some couples choose civil partnership instead of marriage because they reject the historical or religious associations of marriage such as links to patriarchy or property.

Netherlands, 1998

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the famously liberal Netherlands was the first country in Europe to allow heterosexual couples to enter a civil partnership.

Portugal, 1999

Portuguese citizens or legal foreign residents who have lived together for at least two years can enter a civil union.

Rights for opposite-sex couples in a civil union are largely the same as for married couples.

France, 1999

France introduced the Civil Solidarity Pact or PACS to give legal status to both heterosexual and same-sex couples.

Although a PACS does not give the same rights as marriage, it is nonetheless popular with couples.

While the number of marriages has declined each year since 2000, the number of couples choosing a civil solidarity pact has increased, by up to 25% in some years.

Belgium, 2000

Hot on the heels of their neighbours, Belgian citizens in opposite-sex relationships have been able to choose a civil union or "statutory cohabitation" over marriage since 2000.

Luxembourg, 2004

The French PACS model also influenced Luxembourg.

The partnerships provide many of the same rights as marriage. However, couples are not permitted to jointly adopt children.

It is more popular among younger couples - and anyone who declares a civil union can take a six-day holiday from work.

Image copyright iStock

Andorra, 2005

Opposite-sex couples have been able to obtain the status of "stable union of a couple" since 2005.

Greece, 2008

The Greek parliament followed in the steps of France's example, and in 2008 introduced civil unions for opposite-sex couples.

However, few Greeks have taken up the opportunity - in the year after the law was introduced, just 161 couples joined in civil union.

Gibraltar, 2014

Couples in the British territory can choose civil partnership, which grants most of the rights of marriage.

Although the legislation permits both opposite-sex and same-sex couples to have civil union, the first couple to take advantage were Nadine and Alicia Muscat, who tied the knot in May 2014 after being together for 20 years.

Malta, 2014

Heterosexual and same-sex couples can enter a civil union in Malta which gives the same rights and responsibilities as marriage, including the right to joint adoption.

Estonia, 2016

The Estonian parliament passed a law by a margin of two to permit heterosexual and same-sex couples to enter civil partnership in 2014.

Unlike the majority of countries on this list, Estonian citizens did not back their representatives - a survey found that 60% of respondents were not in favour of the legislation.

Nevertheless, the law came into force on 1 January 2016.

Isle of Man, 2016

Men and women in Britain hoping to one day have a civil partnership can be inspired by the Isle of Man, which is a British Crown Dependency.

The island passed the law in August 2016.

In October, Adelina Cosson and Kieran Hodgson were the first heterosexual couple in the British Isles to take advantage of the new law.

One week later, Claire Beale and Martin Loat flew from London to become the first heterosexual couple in the UK to enter a civil partnership.


By Georgina Rannard, UGC and Social news

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