'It's a double-edged thing': The paradox of civil partnership and why some couples are choosing not to have one

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Colleges, School and Institutes


Since their introduction in 2005, thousands of same-sex couples in the UK have had a civil partnership. However, many other couples have chosen not to have one. This qualitative study explores why some same-sex couples are choosing not to have a civil partnership. Seven semi-structured interviews were conducted with 12 people (five couples and two individuals) who identified as lesbian, gay or bisexual, and analysed using discourse analysis. Participants' accounts were characterised by ambivalence about civil partnership, and three main paradoxes were identified: the 'good but not good enough' paradox, the 'unwanted prize' paradox and the 'legal rights v. social oppression paradox. A major source of ambivalence was support for rights but resistance to assimilation into dominant heteronormative cultural frameworks. Participants negotiated this ambivalence in a variety of ways, including considering how to have a civil partnership that is different from 'marriage', and adopting a pragmatic position. The analysis highlights the importance of social recognition and support for a range of relationship forms and identities, as well as for an ongoing critical debate about civil partnerships and same-sex marriage.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)317-335
Number of pages19
JournalFeminism and Psychology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2011


  • gay marriage, civil partnership, lesbians, same-sex marriage, gay men, feminist critiques of marriage