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Court of Appeal Rules Against Heterosexual Civil Partnerships

Mar 07, 2017
A same-sex couple in the UK have two options for obtaining legal recognition of their relationship; they can either enter into a Civil Partnership or they have the alternate option of entering into a marriage. Bur for opposite sex couples, only the option of marriage is available. In a recent case, Rebecca Steinfield and Charles Keaton applied to the courts to change this and legalise heterosexual civil partnerships.  

Steinfield and Keaton are in a committed, loving relationship; however they have genuine ideological objections to marriage as they consider it to be historically patriarchal in nature. They argued that the status of civil partner would better suit their views and ideas, but still provide them with the protection and legal recognition of a marriage. They also claimed that many cohabitating families, like them, do not want to marry but would consider entering into a civil partnership. Indeed, according to the Office for National Statistics, cohabitating families were the fastest growing family type in 2016. Steinfield and Keaton argued that the introduction of heterosexual civil partnerships would change this. 

After a three year legal battle, the Court of Appeal rejected their application last month. The judges ruled with a majority of two to one, that preventing opposite sex couples from entering into a civil partnership was not in breach of their right to a family life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (EHCR). They reasoned that the option of marriage was still available and that it continues to remain a popular option for most heterosexual couples.

Despite this ruling, all judges were in agreement that the current arrangement, in which there are two legal options available for same-sex couples but only one for opposite sex couples, is ultimately unsustainable. When the Same-Sex Marriage Act was first introduced in 2013, the government at the time had said that they would consider legalising opposite sex civil partnerships but that they required more time to research what the effects of this introduction might be. The judges in this case accepted this reasoning and felt it was justified that in-depth research be conducted into the effects of this introduction before any changes to the legislation are made. 

While this case has certainly put pressure on the government to begin to consider legalising opposite sex civil partnerships, as it stands this continues to be an unavailable option for many couples who believe that marriage is not an option for them. 

Karen Pritchard

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Karen Pritchard

Karen joined Nockolds in September 2015. Before joining the firm, Karen graduated with a First Class degree in Law from the University of Westminster and ...

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