18 JANUARY 2016

My partner, Jimmy, and I are campaigning to open up civil partnerships, currently only available for same sex couples, to different sex couples. We are expecting our first child together and are really excited about spending the rest of our lives with each other.

Now we want to celebrate our relationship and make a commitment to each other, but have mutually decided that marriage is not for us. Neither of us are comfortable with the religious and patriarchal associations of marriage and the cultural baggage attached to it.

While many of the practices and rituals of marriage are optional, most are expected. Brides are expected to wear white, for example, which traditionally symbolises virginity. The father’s permission is often sought before the man will propose, and the bride’s father gives the bride away, both of which symbolise a transferring of ownership.

Others are not optional. For example, there is only space for couples’ fathers to sign the marriage certificate. To Jimmy and I, who have very close relationships with our mothers, this feels wrong.

Equality is important to us individually and as a couple. We try to reflect this in our actions: when we got engaged on holiday we proposed to one another; and we have made the decision to combine our surnames to create a new one for us both and our child as we start our own family.

Civil partnerships were created ten years ago as a way for same sex couples to formalise their relationship and to offer them the same legal protections as married heterosexual couples, before marriage was finally opened up to all couples in 2014. To us civil partnerships represent equality, partnership and unconditional love, regardless of sexual orientation or preference. It is fantastic that same sex couples now have the option of a civil partnership or marriage, and we simply want that same choice.
Our considerations are no longer just emotional, however. With the imminent arrival of our first child we want the financial and legal protections that are afforded to married couples. By not compromising our values, and by not being hypocritical and getting married, we find ourselves significantly disadvantaged financially. This feels neither right nor fair.

This week a Judicial Review hearing brought by Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan, supported by the Equal Civil Partnerships campaign, will take place in the High Court (19-20 January) to rule whether the UK law on civil partnerships contravenes human rights. A positive result would put pressure on the government to address this inequality.

In addition to the legal case, Tim Loughton MP has tabled a Ten Minute Rule Bill to amend the law. This has its second reading in the House of Commons on the 29th January.

The more voices that back this campaign the stronger it will be. If you too feel civil partnerships should be extended to all please get involved by signing the petition, or donating to their legal fund. So far over 33,000 people have signed the petition and they have raised over £20 000 to help cover their legal fees, including a large sum from their savings, but they need £6,500 more to meet their costs.

We believe that all couples, regardless of sexual preference, should be able to choose what is right for them. Jimmy and I are partners, importantly, equal partners. Civil partnerships reflect this is a way that marriage simply doesn’t.


Laura Cochrane, 25, is a visiting lecturer in animal rights and feminism. She recently moved to Todmorden, West Yorkshire, where she lives with her partner and is expecting their first child.