Since the introduction of same-sex marriage on 29 March 2014, same-sex couples have had the choice of entering either into civil partnerships or into marriage. In contrast, the Civil Partnerships Act 2004 currently bars opposite-sex couples from entering into civil partnerships, and therefore the only status open to such couples wishing to formalise their relationship is marriage, although the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Act 2013 required a review of the operation and future of civil partnership.
The Court of Appeal has today dismissed the appeal of Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan against an earlier High Court decision refusing them judicial review of the Secretary of State’s decision not – at this stage – to propose any change to the bar on opposite-sex couples entering into a civil partnership.
Graeme Fraser, Partner at Hunters incorporating May, May & Merrimans, and cohabitation expert, commented:
“Today’s decision is surprising because the extension of civil partnerships to opposite-sex couples would have achieved equality and non-discrimination.
I anticipate Steinfield and Keidan will consider taking their case to Europe on the question of whether the fact that civil partnership is not open to opposite-sex couples is discriminatory and a violation of the European Convention of Human Rights.
Policy makers should be wary of the ramifications of this case being taken to Europe. They may wish to consider the abolition of civil partnerships completely, since the original intention was to serve same-sex couples who were unable to obtain equivalent rights to opposite-sex couples, as they were unable to marry. Since the enactment of same-sex marriage, the retention of civil partnerships is no longer a necessity. However, same sex couples who have chosen not to convert their partnership to civil marriage should be allowed to remain in civil partnerships if they so choose.
The question of extending civil partnerships to opposite-sex couples would not however protect people left vulnerable under the current law where there are no specific cohabitation family law remedies, because those who are in a stronger position financially retain the option not to marry or enter into civil partnerships.
We must continue to advocate for change to protect people left vulnerable under the current law, many of whom are often women with children who have no financial provision, because their long term partners will not or cannot marry them. Only legislative cohabitation reform can achieve this aim.”