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16 February

Heterosexual Civil Partnerships?

In the news recently there has been a case where a heterosexual couple who wished to enter into a Civil Partnership rather than a marriage had suggested to a High Court Judge that they are being discriminated against.  Their suggestion is that the government’s position in relation to Civil Partnership is incompatible with equality law.

The couple feel that the Civil Partnership “captures the essence” of their relationship and values, and they cannot see any justification from stopping heterosexual couples from forming Civil Partnerships.

 The Civil Partnership Act 2004 provides that only same sex couples are eligible to form a Civil Partnership.  In considering the validity of the position of this couple, it is important to look back to the time the Civil Partnership Act was drafted and the reasons why it came into force.

Whilst of course it is important for there to be equality and that nobody should be discriminated against, it has to be noted that the Civil Partnership Act 2004 only applied to same sex couples when it was enacted, because same sex marriage was not possible at that time.  Same sex marriage was brought about several years later by the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013.  It is right to say that since the Civil Partnership Act came into force in 2004 same sex couples now have two routes to the recognition of their relationship, both by way of Civil Partnership and by way of marriage, however it ought to be noted that at the time of the Civil Partnership Act, this was not the case. 

There is the school of thought that heterosexual couples are not discriminated against by not being able to form a Civil Partnership, on the basis that they are still free to marry.  They do not have to do so in a religious manner, and can have a civil ceremony but the point about capturing the essence of their relationship and values is perhaps a valid one.       

Should you require any advice on any family law issue then please contact Demelza Wrigley