This is a quick guide to civil partnerships and how they work in the UK, compiled by GayDatingAgency.com
If you want to have the same legal status as your married friends, civil partnership is currently the only legal route available to you. Still, whilst it is not marriage in the religious sense, it does give you legal recognition and protection. Civil partnerships were introduce to remove the legal inequalities between same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples which are inherent in the marriage system.
The first Civil Partnership was in 2004 between Christopher Cramp and Matthew Roche of Worthing. Civil partnership are legally recognised relationships between same-sex couples. To enter into one, you go through the registration process, somewhat like a marriage ceremony. Like marriage, it only ends when one partner dies or the partnership is annulled.
To get "partnered", you both sign the official document in the presence of an offical registrar, and two witnesses. The ceremony cannot take place in a church or any other religious building, and cannot include any religious readings, however these restrictions are soon due to be lifted.
As with heterosexual marriages, you must both give notice to your local registration authority. The proposed partnership is publicised and formal objection are invited. Objections may include the allegation that one partner is married, or already in a civil partnership. If no objections are received, the civil partnership must go ahead within the next year.
You can enter into a civil parntership as long as you over 16. If you're under 18 you'll need parental consent. If you're already married or already in a civil partnership - forget it! There's a limited number of places abroad (British Embassies or Consulates) where you register your partnership. And you can get partnered to a non-UK man providing you yourself are a Brit.
What are the legal benefits of civil partnerships?
The position of civil partners in relation to financial arrangements mirrors that of spouses. What happens when one partner dies will be the same as for married couples. The tax benefits available to married couples are available to you if you are in a civil partnership.
You can, like a married man, become the official stepparent of your partners children. You can also apply for custody of the children in cases of dispute. You can also apply to obtain financial support for the kids if you separate. The law on adoption has also been updated to ensure that civil partners can adopt.
Do you change your name when you get partnered?
You don't have to, but you can and in some cases one man may change his surname to that of his civil partner, or you can go down the double-barrelled route.
It's unthinkable but it happens. The law of ending a civil partnerships allows for their dissolution or annulment, in the same way that marriages are treated. You can only apply to dissolve the partnership after one year. Valid reasons for dissolution would include unreasonable behaviour, separation (after two years, if you and your partner agree, or after five years if you don't) and desertion - where your partner disappears. Adultery is one form of unreasonable behaviour that the court could take into account.
Is it for you?
If you want legal recognition, legal protection of your assets should you or your partner die, an official ceremony, and a life-changing event which you can both remember for the rest of your lives, then a civil partnership might be the way to go. The numbers of couples entering into civil partnership has declined year on year since 2006. This might be because couples who started their relationships before the introduction of civil partnerships have now taken the plunge.