Marriage & Civil Partnership (NI Marital Status)

Definition

Marriage and civil partnership refers to people who have entered into a marriage or a civil partnership.

Legislation

Great Britain

Under the Equality Act 2010, it is unlawful to directly or indirectly discriminate or harass a person because they are married or in a civil partnership. Marriage and civil partnership though is not a protected characteristic in relation to services and public functions, premises, education and associations. This means it is only a protected characteristic in the context of work.

Currently in the UK, a marriage is only available to an opposite-sex couple, and a civil partnership is only available to a same-sex couple. The two institutions are legally separate, although similar in many ways. A civil partnership provides most of the rights of a marriage. This means that anything that is available to a married couple, such as special rates, privileges or benefits, must also be available to a couple in a civil partnership.

Although it is not explicitly laid out in the Equality Act 2010, if a couple in a civil partnership were to be treated less favourably than a couple in a marriage outside of work, it is likely that it would be discrimination based on sexual orientation.

In situations where a person is asked to disclose their marital or civil partnership status, it is very important, and often a legal requirement, for that information to be kept private. Revealing or implying that a person is in a civil partnership may expose them to discrimination or prejudice based on sexual orientation. For this reason, it is best practice to put the options of marriage and civil partnership together in any forms.

Northern Ireland

According to the Equality Commission under Section 75 public authorities are required to have due regard to the need to promote equality of opportunity between persons of different marital status.