Equal Civil Partnership

Equal Civil Partnership

A campaign to overturn a ban on heterosexual couples being allowed to enter into civil partnership has unanimously been ruled by the Supreme Court as being incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.

Section 1 of the Civil Partnership Act 2004 restricts civil partnership to same-sex couples. This means that a heterosexual couple do not have the right to enter into a civil partnership.

This is in complete contrast to the Marriage (Same-Sex Couple) Act 2013 which permits same sex couples to enter into either a marriage or civil partnership.

The question posed by the Supreme Court was whether heterosexual couples should have the option to formalise their relationship in an alternative way to marriage.

In a land mark case heterosexual couple, Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan challenged their right to enter into a civil partnership. They wished to have their relationship legally recognised, but not by way of marriage. They accordingly sought a declaration that the Civil Partnership Act 2004 was incompatible with Article 8 (right to respect for one’s private and family life) and Article 14 (not to be discriminated and to enjoy the right and freedoms provided by the convention without discrimination on any ground, including sex or sexual orientation) of the European Convention on Human Right.

The decision to enter into a civil partnership or a marriage is a personal choice, which Charles and Rebecca argued should be available to all couples regardless of sex or sexual orientation. There are couple who do not feel that the sacrament of marriage is right for them or their relationship. Others simply want a choice between getting married and forming a civil partnership.

In the UK, there is no legal framework for cohabitating couples that offers the same legal rights and protection for those who are married or in a civil partnership. There has been a significant rise in the number of couples wishing to cohabit in the UK, however, for many the financial vulnerability on a relationship breakdown is stark.

Cohabiting couples have no legal rights for financial provisions on a relationship breakdown. Offering civil partnership to cohabiting heterosexual couple will provide the same protection that marriage does, thus bringing equality, fairness and stability to many couples.

The Judgement does not oblige the government to change the law, however it does make it more likely that the government will now act.

If you would like to speak to our specialist family lawyer, please contact Muna Saleem.