Civil Partnership – an Update
  • 29th Mar 2019
  • Article written by Melissa Markham
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After decades of campaigning December 2005 saw the enactment of the Civil Partnerships Act 2004 which enabled same-sex couples to legalise their relationship by forming a Civil Partnership.  Prior to this, same sex partners could not formalise their relationships legally as they were prevented from marrying.  Same-sex partners now have the choice of a Civil Partnership or getting married, following further legislation which came into force in March 2014. 


Unlike married couples, Civil Partners cannot call themselves “married” and there are a couple of other differences between the two legal partnerships.  A Civil Partnership cannot be dissolved as a result of one partner committing adultery and a Civil Partnership Certificate details both parents of both parties, whereas a Marriage Certificate includes only the parties’ fathers’ names. 


A number of opposite sex couples object to marriage for various reasons. One such couple, Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan took this point to the Supreme Court in June 2018 after a lengthy legal battle to form a Civil Partnership due to their objections to marriage, they say, having “patriarchal baggage”.  The couple argued that precluding opposite couples from forming a Civil Partnership was a breach of their human rights.  The Supreme Court ruled that heterosexual couples were being discriminated against as they were prevented from forming Civil Partnerships under the Civil Partnership Act 2004 legislation. The couple were said to have “deep-rooted and genuine ideological objections to marriage” which resulted in a legal battle of more than four years.


However, it was said that their success did not mean that the option of a Civil Partnership was open to all heterosexual couples immediately despite the Court accepting that the different treatment of same sex and different sex couples could not be justified. When announcing the Court’s decision, Lord Kerr requested “tolerance of the discrimination while [the government] sorts out how to deal with it” although stated in the written ruling that this did not “oblige the government or Parliament to anything”.  Therefore, accepting that the preclusion of opposite sex couples from forming Civil Partnerships was discriminatory to them, but the Court itself could not change the law and their ruling did not place a compulsion on the government to do so.


It would appear that the Government were listening said, Melissa Markham, Family Associate Solicitor at Whitehead Monckton.  The Civil Partnership, Marriages and Deaths (Registration etc) Bill received Royal Assent on 26th March 2019 and comes into force on 26th May 2019.  Section 2 of the CPMD Act 2019 provides for the Secretary of State to amend the Civil Partnership Act 2004 by regulation to enable opposite sex couples to form Civil Partnerships.  The Regulations must be in force by 31st December 2019.


For more help and information on this issue or a similar issue you can contact Melissa Markham here.