Are Civil Partnerships set to be introduced for straight couples?

In the news recently a heterosexual couple have been seeking to challenge why civil partnerships are not currently available to couples of the opposite sex

A High Court Judge has permitted a legal challenge to proceed in the recent case involving Rebecca Steinfield and Charles Keidan. An online petition has so far attracted almost 3,000 signatures calling for opposite-sex couples, like same-sex couples, to have an equal choice between civil partnerships and marriage.

The legal regime for Civil Partnership Agreements is set out in the Civil Partnership Act 2004 and the equivalent for marriage is set out in the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973.

Owen Jones, writing in the Guardian has stated that ‘Straight people deserve equal rights to civil partnerships. Marriage is not for everyone’.

Statistics show that marriage has generally been in decline. In 2014, 33% of people were not married but one in eight were co-habiting. While nine in 10 of 60-year-olds were married at that time or had been previously. Researchers estimated that only half of young couples would marry

Office for National Statistics figures tell us that whereas in 1971, 404,000 marriages took place, by 2009 that figure was down to 232,000.

The Government has stated that it has consulted on the issue of Civil Partnerships for straight couples and found a lack of consensus and therefore does not intent to make any changes to the law. However, due to recent events this might change.

However we feel that if the government takes the view that same sex and heterosexual couples really ought to have the same options available to them, there is a possibility instead that the government could go the other way and decide instead to abolish civil partnerships altogether for same sex couples rather than extending them to heterosexual couples.

Civil partnerships were of course introduced when same-sex couples did not have the option of marriage but that has since changed with the introduction of same sex marriage in 2014. In view of this some might question whether civil partnerships still have a place.

Paul Lancaster

Paul Lancaster
Family Law Team
0113 227 9215

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