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Peers back move to extend civil partnerships to opposite-sex couples

By Trevor Mason, Press Association Political Staff

A bid to extend civil partnerships to opposite-sex couples has been backed by peers.

Civil partnerships have been available to same-sex couples since legislation was introduced in 2004.

But Baroness Hodgson of Abinger said that, while same-sex couples could now marry or form civil partnerships, opposite-sex couples could only marry.

Introducing her Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths (Registration) Bill, Lady Hodgson told the Lords not everyone felt marriage was for them.

"Some people who would very much like to have their relationship recognised in the eyes of society and the law find themselves without protection or security simply because they do not wish to marry."

Lady Hodgson, a Tory Peer, said it was time to bring about equality between same-sex couples and others over their future ability to form civil partnerships.

The Bill, which has already cleared the Commons, seeks to extend civil partnerships to opposite-sex couples and to make provisions for a mother's name to be included on marriage and civil partnership certificates.

It also introduces measures to formally record a stillborn child born before 24 weeks' gestation.

Former TV presenter and Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Benjamin, who said she had suffered three "heartbreaking" miscarriages, welcomed the change on recording stillborn children, saying parents had previously "suffered in silence" with no formal recognition of their child's life.

Home Office Minister Baroness Williams of Trafford said the Prime Minister announced last October that the Government would extend civil partnerships to opposite-sex couples.

"This firmly remains the intention of the Government and we look forward to opposite-sex couples being able to form civil partnerships as soon as possible."

Lady Williams said that, despite concerns about the wording of the Bill, "while we highly value marriage, we do know that for many reasons this isn't an arrangement that suits everyone".

The Bill, which has cross-party support, was given an unopposed second reading and goes forward for further detailed committee stage debate at a later date.

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