Civil Partnerships and equality: progress stalls

We have previously written about the efforts of one couple to challenge the current Civil Partnership provision, which is only available for same-sex…

We have previously written about the efforts of one couple, Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan, to challenge the current Civil Partnership provision, which is only available for same-sex couples. Ms Steinfeld and Mr Keidan wish to make a lifelong legal commitment to each other, but reject the institution of marriage. Their application for judicial review of the issue was recently heard in the Court of Appeal (November 2016), and was rejected today, Tuesday 21 February 2017.

In January the government dealt a blow to those who hoped to make progress through a Private Members’ Bill, presented by Tim Loughton MP. It was hoped that this bill, titled the Civil Partnership Act (2004) Amendment Bill, would open the way for legislative change, preventing the inequality which currently exists. In a reversal of the historical position, same-sex couples now have a choice, with the option of either Civil Partnership or marriage (available since 2014), where opposite-sex couples wishing to make such a legal commitment are restricted to marriage.

Interestingly, in the Isle of Man, both same-sex and opposite-sex couples have the choice to enter into either arrangement. By virtue of the Marriage and Civil Partnership Amendment Act 2016, which has come into force in July of last year, the Manx Parliament has ensured all couples, heterosexual and same sex, have the opportunity to choose whether marriage or civil partnership is right for them. This reform has leap frogged the current position in England and Wales by opening up access to both institutions.

The government’s position in the Commons in January was that in a 2014 consultation, the vast majority of respondents were opposed to extending the availability of civil partnerships and that currently, the government is therefore favouring a wait and see approach. With the availability of same-sex marriage, it is entirely possible that demand for civil partnership will all but fall away, and the institution may become obsolete. However, there's no doubt that some couples, like Ms Steinfeld and Mr Keidan, will continue to reject the institution of marriage on ideological grounds.

If you require assistance with the breakdown of a marriage or civil partnership, or alternatively if you wish to enquire as to whether a pre-marital or civil partnership agreement might be appropriate for you, please do not hesitate to contact one of our family lawyers.

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