Civil Partnerships For Heterosexual Couples


The Law Of…Heterosexual Couples And Civil Partnership

Heterosexual couples are currently ineligible for civil partnerships. They were originally designed as an alternative to marriage for same-sex couples, despite the initial point of civil partnerships being equality.

Jenine Abdo, Family Law Associate, takes a look at just what constitutes a civil partnership and where the campaign for heterosexual couples gaining access to them currently stands.

What Is A Civil Partnership?

A civil partnership is a legal partnership between a same-sex couple. The Civil Partnership Act was introduced in 2004, with the first official unions being carried out in December 2005 in the UK.

They were introduced as a means for same-sex couples to be recognised as legally united. While there are no major differences between a civil partnership and marriage there are a couple of minor legal differences:
  • Civil partners are unable to refer to themselves as 'married' in a legal sense
  • Civil partnership certificates include the names of both parents of both parties, whereas conventional marriage only includes the fathers' names of both parties
  • Adultery is not reasonable grounds to end a civil partnership

Certain heterosexual couples prefer the idea of a civil partnership over conventional marriage. Currently, however, heterosexual couples are legally unable to apply for civil partnership as the legislation was written up specifically for same-sex couples.

A similar article was covered by our Family Law Partner, Emma Hopkins Jones, which explores the difference between civil partnership and marriage in more detail.

The Importance Of Civil Partnership For Heterosexual Couples

Civil partnerships were originally intended as an interim measure until equal marriage rights were approved for same-sex couples. If they are opened up to heterosexual couples then they will quickly become a mainstay in modern society, strengthening the existing same-sex unions.

By denying civil partnerships to heterosexual couples, the law is effectively grinding the equality movement to a firm halt. Equal rights would be much better served if civil partnerships were made available to everyone.

Where Does The Campaign Currently Stand?

After being refused the right to a civil partnership back in December 2014, Charles Keidan and Rebecca Steinfeld opted to challenge the current law preventing them from entering into a civil partnership.

With the assistance of Equal Civil Partnerships, the couple is currently lobbying to the Prime Minister to get the law amended, with MPs being sought out and brought on board in order to garner support.

The change in law is also currently being appealed to the Court of Appeal as Equal Civil Partnerships believe it to be incompatible with the UK's 1998 Human Rights Act.

The campaign is still ongoing and has been granted permission to take the case to the Supreme Court in August 2018.

On the current availability of civil partnerships for heterosexual couples, Jenine comments:

"Many heterosexual couples have campaigned and supported the LGBT community to help achieve recognition and legal relationship status."

"It was a historic day when the law regarding civil partnerships came into force and even more so when marriage was legalised for the LGBT community. As a committee member and an ambassador for Show Racism the Red Card, as well as it being at Cardiff Pride this weekend, I have always supported equality and justice for all."

"As a Family Solicitor I have seen and met many couples who do not want to get married but would like their relationship to have a status if they could; this has successfully happened with the LGBT community with one being able to choose whether they should enter a civil partnership or get married. As an advocate for equality I would like to think that people can enter into a relationship of their choice, be it a non-legal status relationship, a civil partnership or a marriage, and this should be an option for all regardless of sexual orientation, cultural heritage or religion within England and Wales."

Jenine Abdo is a Family Law Associate and part of our specialist Family Law team. If you have a legal concern regarding your marital status or rights, or simply want to make a query, don’t hesitate to contact us through either our enquiry form or on our freephone legal helpline number.

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