A HOLYROOD committee has supported a new bill allowing mixed sex couples to enter civil partnerships.

The Equalities and Human Rights Committee concluded the Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill would bolster equality in Scotland.

Currently, civil partnerships are only available to same-sex couples.

Campaigners told the committee some couples would prefer civil partnerships for a range of reasons, including religion.

Convener Ruth Maguire said: “The committee supports the Scottish Government’s aim of advancing human rights and equality through the extension of civil partnerships to different sex couples. We recognise the importance of offering choice for couples to formalise their relationship and access the rights and protections which flow from that in a way they see fit.”

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Despite the committee’s support for the legislation, Maguire said more could be done to improve the bill, including allowing people in Scotland who are already married to convert their marriage to a civil partnership in the same way same-sex couples can convert a partnership to a marriage.

She said: “However, the committee heard evidence that if provisions to allow conversion from marriage to civil partnership are introduced in England and Wales, then Scotland could fall behind on matters of equality.

“We believe there is an opportunity to improve the bill by creating a provision to allow couples to convert their marriage to a civil partnership.

“While there are undoubtedly legal challenges in this area, these could be overcome with careful legal drafting.”

The report found the number of conversions to civil partnerships among those already married could be small but added: “The ability for couples to have their relationship recognised in a way they see fit is important.”

The report asked Cabinet Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville to assess what could be done to tackle the legal challenges presented by conversion.

The bill will now go before the chamber to be voted on by MSPs.

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