Co-op to have 'civil partnership' option on forms after gay exposé

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The Independent Online

The Co-operative Bank has caved in to demands to include the "civil partnership" option on its banking application forms after an investigation by the gay community newspaper Pink News exposed it as being one of the few banks to have not updated its paperwork since civil partnerships were introduced almost two years ago.

The Co-op's failure to allow couples to register themselves as being in a civil partnership caused outrage among the gay and lesbian community, particularly in light of the bank's claim to be one of the leading ethical financial services companies in the UK.

When inquiries were first made by customers about changing the application forms, the bank claimed it had "no legal requirement to specifically offer the category 'civil partner'," as it already let people classify their marital status as "other". The bank added that, while it had considered changing its application forms, it decided the costs would be too high.

One couple, who had banked with the Co-op since 1969, told Pink News they had moved their bank account because of the dispute.

However, the Co-op has now agreed to change its online application forms immediately, and says it will update its hard copy forms next time they are printed – although it did not say how soon this would be.

"When the situation was brought to our attention, we fully investigated through our legal department who confirmed that we are compliant with the law by offering 'other' for anyone who feels the specific options on our application forms do not relate to their personal cir-cumstances," said a spokes-person for Co-op bank.

"However, as a leading ethical bank, over the last few months we have been reviewing the initial decision not to include 'civil partnership' on our application forms. We are currently in the process of updating our online application form to include the option 'married or civil partnership' in the marital status field. When our paper application forms are reprinted, they will also be updated. Although this will take place when they are printed again, due to the large volume of paper this involves and the effects it would have on the environment if we were to destroy those already in existence."

Egg was also highlighted as a bank that does not include the option on its forms, but says it plans to introduce it next year.