"French couples are increasingly shunning traditional marriages and opting instead for civil unions, to the point that there are now two civil unions for every three marriages.
"When France created its system of civil unions in 1999, it was heralded as a revolution in gay rights, a relationship almost like marriage, but not quite. No one, though, anticipated how many couples would make use of the new law. Nor was it predicted that by 2009, the overwhelming majority of civil unions would be between straight couples.
"It remains unclear whether the idea of a civil union, called a pacte civil de solidarité, or PACS, has responded to a shift in social attitudes or caused one. But it has proved remarkably well suited to France and its particularities about marriage, divorce, religion and taxes — and it can be dissolved with just a registered letter."
Meanwhile, in Britain, which also has civil partnerships, a lawsuit is underway to change the fact that both same sex marriage and different sex civil partnerships are illegal:
"Eight British couples will argue that the twin bans on same-sex marriages and heterosexual civil partnerships are unlawful and should be reversed.
"Over the last two months four homosexual couples have all been refused marriage licenses at register offices across England, while four heterosexual couples were turned away when they applied for civil partnership status.
"The couples will file a joint application to the court today, which is the fifth anniversary of the first civil partnership ceremonies in England."