The Civil Partnership Act became law in the UK on the 18 November 2004 and will come into force on 5 December 2005. The Act creates a new legal relationship of civil partnership that two people of the same sex can form by signing a registration document. It is only available to same sex couples, and is not the same as marriage. As three weeks’ notification has to be given before a partnership can be registered, the first partnership ceremonies cannot take place until 21 December 2005. The legal situation before the Civil Partnership Act
The Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003 prevents employees being discriminated against on the grounds of their sexual orientation. Further information about these regulations and their impact on Higher Education Institutions’ Equality and Diversity agenda can be found in the ECU publication Employing People in Higher Education: Sexual Orientation. These regulations, however, did not prevent institutions from providing different benefits for employees who were married, and those who were not. For example, a benefit could be offered to the spouse of an employee, but those benefits would not have to be extended to the same sex partner of an employee. General best practice recommends that Higher Education Institutions do not discriminate in this way, but there has been no legal imperative to do so in relation to same sex couples, until the introduction of the Civil Partnership Act. A Civil Partnership
Civil Partnership will give lesbian and gay couples the right to register their commitment to each other by formalising their permanent relationship. A civil partnership is not the same as marriage, though many of the rights conferred through civil partnership are the same as those conferred by marriage. A civil partnership is not available to couples that are of the opposite sex. One of the intentions of the government is that a civil partnership will enable lesbian and gay...