Civil Partnership for opposite-sex couples?

Posted by Rachel Giles on

I was interested to read of the judicial review being embarked upon by a heterosexual couple, who wish to enter into a civil partnership. Also of note is, private members bill on civil partnerships of opposite-sex couples, that has passed through the first stage of the House of Commons with no objections.

It is important to remember that legally, a civil partnership affords exactly the same rights as a marriage. There is no difference on divorce or dissolution. You might therefore ask why heterosexual couples are so keen to be given the right to enter into a civil partnership. It seems to me that, this is mainly an issue of equality. This was the main argument for legalising same-sex marriage, and must therefore be the most compelling reason for legalising civil partnerships for couples of the opposite-sex.

However, perhaps another reason is the growing number of cohabiting (opposite-sex) couples in England and Wales. It is suspected that, many of these have consciously chosen to remain unmarried, and if you speak to Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan, bringing the judicial review, I am sure that they will voice the views of many that marriage is an outdated institution. I have to admit that I am somewhat in favour of marriage! I feel that it puts relationships on a formal setting and that the term "marriage" is generally accepted and understood by all, just as the term "civil partnership" is coming to be recognised.

It cannot be ignored, that there is scope for civil partnerships to be extended to all, just as marriage has been. I look forward to the second reading of the bill, introduced by Tim Loughton MP, in January 2016, to see which views Parliament feel hold the most weight. We may also have some news on the judicial review in the meantime.

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Rachel is a Senior Solicitor in the Family team and is based in the Southampton office.

Rachel Giles
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