Church of England says civil partnerships should not be abolished following gay marriage legalisation

The Church of England wants civil partnerships to stay(PA)

The Church of England has told the Government that it does not want to see same-sex civil partnerships abolished.

The position was outlined in a response to an official consultation on the future of civil partnerships in light of same-sex marriage becoming legal.

William Fittall, the secretary general of the Archbishops' Council and House of Bishops said: "The Church of England recognises that same-sex relationships often embody fidelity and mutuality.

"Civil partnerships enable these Christian virtues to be recognised socially and legally in a proper framework."

In the response, the Church takes the position that civil partnerships provide an option for those Christian same-sex couples who might have an objection to using the word 'marriage' to describe their relationship, but still desire the same legal rights as married couples.

Mr Fittall said civil partnerships provided for those who were in "long term, faithful relationships intended to be permanent" and supplied "the same kind of legal position enjoyed by married heterosexual couples, such as the rights of next-of-kin, inheritance and pension rights and so on".

Answering the question of whether same-sex marriage law had in any way made civil partnerships obsolete, Mr Fittall said: "We believe strongly that the option of civil partnership should remain open for same-sex couples who do not believe that marriage is right for them."

The argument for extending civil partnerships to heterosexual couples has not yet convinced the Church of England.

Mr Fittall continued: "It is much less clear what comparable disadvantage arises from the absence of opportunity for opposite sex couples to form civil partnerships.

"Our arguments for the retention of civil partnership are based on the need to maintain an option for those same-sex couples who wish for proper recognition of their relationship but do not believe that their relationship is identical to 'marriage'."

The Church of England denied suggestions that their support for civil partnerships was based on opposition to same-sex marriage.

"The retention of civil partnership will do nothing to undermine the validity of same-sex marriage," it said.

"[Civil partnerships] will serve to provide a structure whereby those who retain this conviction will not be excluded from the legal and public benefits of their union but will be able to do so without doing violence to their conscientiously held beliefs."

While the document had much to say about civil partnerships, there were no clues to any changes in the Church of England's position on same-sex marriage.

Earlier this month, the Archbishop of Canterbury said in a radio phone in programme on LBC that the issue of same-sex marriage is one he wrestles with "every day, and often in the middle of the night".