Same-sex couples in England, Scotland, and Wales now have the choice between civil partnerships and marriage. Both offer almost all the same rights and responsibilities as straight couples get when they marry. The only exception is with regards to survivor pension benefits, which is a complicated area. Download our Lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (PDF 340 KB) information guide to find out more about this.
Same-sex couples in Northern Ireland can register a civil partnership, but same-sex marriage is not currently available.
What’s the difference?
Civil partnerships are civil ceremonies and can’t contain any religious content, such as hymns or readings relating to faith. You can choose all sorts of locations to register a civil partnership, it doesn’t just have to take place in a registry office.
Once you have registered a civil partnership, you and your partner will both be legally referred to as ‘civil partners’.
When you get married, you will be referred to as ‘spouses’. You can choose to have a civil wedding, which like a civil partnership, can’t have any religious content and can take place in many different places, such as hotels or stately homes.
Or you can choose to get married in a place of worship. Not all faith organisations will conduct same-sex marriages, and they aren’t obliged to by law, but there are faith groups that do offer this and are more than happy to do so.
Although there are differences in the process of forming a civil partnership and getting married, ultimately they both offer you and your partner important increased security for your later life. Find out more about planning for later life in our free information guide for Lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (PDF 340 KB).