Tuesday, May 26, 2015
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Military Questions and Answers about Civil Partnerships

Partners & Family - Civil Partnerships

Registration of Partnerships Overseas

Q: I am already in a same sex civil partnership that is registered abroad. Will it be recognised by the Armed Forces?
A: Providing that it was formed in one of the countries listed in Schedule 20 of the Civil Partnership Act (visit the civilian law section), you and your partner will be treated as if you had formed the partnership in the UK.

Q: Will Service Registering Officers be able to register a civil partnership overseas?
A: Yes. A Service Registering Officer may register a civil partnership in those locations where marriages can be registered. See Civil Partnership Act Part 5 Ch 1 (Registration by armed forces personnel) for details.

Recruiting and Employment

Q: Will the Armed Forces allow me to change my name if I register a civil partnership?
A: Whether or not an individual wishes to change their name to that of their civil partner, or hyphenate, is an entirely private matter. Should you wish to change your name, a Civil Partnership certificate will have the same evidential value as a marriage certificate for recording that change on official documents held by Government Departments, including Armed Forces personnel records.

Q: Will there be restrictions on couples in a civil partnership who are both in the Armed Forces serving on the same unit?
A: The current rules covering the employment of married couples within the same unit will apply to those in a civil partnership. Co-location will be possible, subject to the availability of suitable posts.

Q: Will there be any restriction on where personnel in a civil partnership can be posted?
A: Yes. Although Service regulations will not prevent those in a civil partnership from being considered for worldwide service, there may be some overseas locations where local laws, customs or agreements with the host nation will preclude those in a civil partnership serving accompanied. In such circumstances the Service person will be deemed to be serving Unaccompanied and will be entitled to the relevant allowances commensurate with that status.

Q: Does the new policy apply equally to members of the Reserve Forces?
A: Yes, within the ambit of entitlements afforded to married Reserve Forces personnel.

Q: Does an individual have a legal right to refuse SFA because a same-sex couple will be a near neighbour?
A: An individual does not have to live in SFA. It is entirely a matter for him/her whether or not to take up the offer of SFA but if the reason for not doing so is related to the fact that a same-sex couple will be a near neighbour, he/she has no legal right to demand alternative accommodation. In this matter, all personnel have an obligation to adhere to the regulations covering the allocation of accommodation, which will be made without regard to gender, race, sexual orientation, religion or belief. It will fall to local DE/DHE personnel to enforce the housing regulations.

Social Conduct

Q: This policy change has the potential to raise questions, and possibly disquiet, from some individuals. As a Commanding Officer, how do I deal with these?
A: Whilst the issue can be emotive for some people, questions can be readily addressed by making personnel aware of the legal status of civil partners, together with continuing to seek to change attitudes through on-going equality and diversity programmes. The Code of Social Conduct for the Armed Forces and MOD policy make it clear that unlawful discrimination on grounds of gender, race, sexual orientation, religion or belief will not be tolerated. Couples who have entered into a civil partnership have entered into a legal relationship. Any intolerance towards such a relationship could amount to discrimination and therefore contravene the Armed Forces Code of Conduct and will be dealt with accordingly.

Right to Privacy

Q: Will it be possible to identify an individual who has registered their civil partnership, but who does not wish their status to be known to others on the unit, from their Service records?
A: Not directly. Both marriage and civil partnerships will be simply shown as Category 1 on an individual’s records, making it impossible to differentiate between them. Acknowledging that sexual orientation is purely a matter for the individual, the Services have decided it is inappropriate even to have the means to identify the number of personnel who have registered a civil partnership. While it may be possible for assumptions to be made from Next of Kin details, this information is privacy protected and should, therefore, only be available to those who need the information for authorised purposes.

Q: As a Commanding Officer, how should I deal with the Serviceman or woman who complains that their civil partnership is the subject of gossip and inappropriate behaviour from colleagues/neighbours?
A: If the individual seeks advice on what to do, he or she may be advised to consider whether talking informally to the relevant individuals might effectively defuse the situation. Counselling may also be appropriate. Commanding Officers must also be alert for any signs of harassment, victimisation or bullying of the individual and take steps to prevent this from developing. If an individual wishes to complain about such a matter the normal procedures relating to bullying/unlawful discrimination will apply.

Status of Partners

Q: If my civil partner is not a European Economic Area national, will they be allowed entry and leave to reside in the UK?
A: If you want to register a civil partnership with a person who is subject to immigration control and require permission to enter or remain in the UK, you can find out more about the procedures you will have to follow on the Department of Trade and Industry website www.womenandequalityunit.gov.uk/civilpartnerships/findout.htm#faq

Q: What is the position regarding a couple who live in SFA under these provisions then decide to separate?
A: The legal position on their civil partnership will be for the individuals concerned to determine, taking legal advice as appropriate. With regard to entitlement to Service allowances, it will fall to the Service partner to inform his/her Commanding Officer of any change in status which may affect entitlements. The same procedures would then apply as in the case of a married couple who separate, which would include access to the same range of welfare support, as well as the option for the Commanding Officer to allow a "cooling off" period where this is thought to be of assistance in effecting reconciliation.

Q: How do civil partners divorce and what are the implications?
A: Civil Partnership ends only on formal dissolution or annulment, or on the death of one of the parties. The process for dissolution will be court-based and in order to prove irretrievable breakdown it will be necessary to provide evidence of one or more of the following facts to support the application for dissolution:

• Unreasonable behaviour, that is behaviour such that the applicant cannot reasonably be expected to live with their civil partner;
• Separation for two years, where the other civil partner consents to a dissolution order being made;
• Separation for five years, where the other civil partner does not consent to a dissolution order being made;
• That the other civil partner has deserted the applicant for a period of two years prior to the application

Q: What is the position where the Service person dies?
A: The surviving partner will be treated in the same manner as would a widow(er), and would have access to the same range of welfare support.

Q: What is the position with regard to postings overseas?
A: In Service terms, the same entitlements would apply overseas as would in UK. However, agreements with some host nations may preclude access to certain facilities. There are also certain nations that do not recognise Civil Partnerships, and it will fall to the Service person and his/her Career Management Branch to determine an appropriate way forward.

Q: What is the position if a Service person wishes to co-habit with a same-sex partner but does not wish to register under the Act?
A: The only circumstance under which the Services would allow cohabitation with someone of the same sex in Service Family Accommodation is when they are registered under the Act. Cohabitation in private accommodation is an entirely private matter.

Q: What is the position regarding entitlement to SFA for those undergoing initial training?
A: SFA would not be made available in such circumstances, as is also the case for married personnel.

Opposite Sex Partnerships

Q: Why don't you recognise civil partnerships registered abroad by opposite sex couples?
A: The Civil Partnership Act 2004 provides for same sex couples to enter into a new legal relationship and gives them the ability to obtain legal recognition for their relationship. Opposite sex couples who wish to obtain similar rights have the option to marry.

Q: Now that same-sex couples will be able to occupy SFA why can this entitlement not be extended to cohabiting heterosexual couples?
A: This provision extends to same-sex couples who will be entitled to occupy SFA by virtue of having entered into a Civil Partnership, thereby gaining the same legal recognition as a married couple.

Q: What about an ‘entitled partners’ policy?
A: While the policy on eligibility to entitlements to Service allowances is kept under constant review, the MOD has no immediate plans to introduce a policy to provide Service personnel in a stable relationship that it not legally recognised with the same, or similar, allowances and entitlements as married personnel. This is in accordance with current Government policy, which requires couples to be in a legally recognised relationship if they wish to receive the same entitlements as a married couple. Changes to the current position would be notified to Service personnel in that event.