Campaigners have welcomed the government announcement that heterosexual couples
will be allowed to enter into civil partnerships instead of getting married if that’s what they wish.
Civil partnerships provide the same benefits and rights as marriage in terms of tax, inheritance and protections for each partner if the relationship breaks down. They have only been available to same-sex couples, a restriction that was challenged by Rebecca Steinfeld and her partner Charles Keidan.
The couple wanted to formalise their relationship but didn’t like what they saw as the “legacy of marriage” because for centuries it had “treated women as property”.
The Supreme Court ruled in their favour saying that denying civil partnerships to heterosexual couples contravened the European Convention on Human Rights. The court urged the government to end the inequality immediately because it was discriminatory.
Following the ruling, Theresa May announced that civil partnerships will now be available to heterosexual as well as gay couples.
The announcement was welcomed by leading lawyers and campaigners. Sir Paul Coleridge, the chairman of the Marriage Foundation, told the Times newspaper: “This is truly good news for unmarried couples and especially their children. For those who for whatever reason, rational or irrational, prefer not to marry this option provides a genuine alternative.
“As all research shows, the key ingredient to injecting stability into a relationship is a public commitment backed by legal protection. Civil partnerships incorporate all these into a package which requires the same decision making as prior to marriage and the identical protections if it ends. We should not get hung up on names, what matters is what couples do.”
Mrs May did not specify when the necessary legislation would be introduced. We shall keep clients informed of developments.
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