The Church believes that a marriage must contain four essential elements, that it must be free consent of both parties, that their gift to each other is total, that they will be faithful to each other until death, and that they are open to life. Formal refusal to accept or practise one of them would make the marriage defective, and is considered grounds for annulment. If one or more parties refuse to agree to one of these elements before the marriage, the priest will not be allowed to marry them.

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People who seek civil union or partnership are seeking civil recognition and protection of their relationship. In essence it is just one step up from common-law. They are not the same as marriage, but very much enjoy the same legal benefits as well as responsibilities as marriage. These are legal constructs, and as such the Church, though does not agree with the union, does not have the prerogatives to deny it.

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