Civil partnerships were introduced under the Civil Partnerships Act 2004, and give same-sex couples most (but not all) of the rights and responsibilities of an opposite-sex civil marriage. Civil partners are entitled to the same property rights, inheritance tax, social security benefits and pension benefits and rights as opposite-sex married couples. They also have the right to claim parental responsibility for their partner's children, and for reasonable maintenance of a partner and their children. There are also other rights similar to those of a married opposite-sex couple, and a formal process for dissolving civil partnerships similar to divorce.
Following a long campaign, the definition of marriage as a 'union between a man and a woman' was effectively changed by the England and Wales Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act to include same-sex couples within civil marriage. The Act received Royal Assent on 17th July 2013, but its full implementation was delayed. It also grants people in England and Wales the ability to convert their civil partnership into a civil marriage, with equal rights and responsibilities to those in an opposite-sex civil marriage.