By Ruth Hawkins
As has been reported in the media, the Prime Minister, Theresa May, has announced that the government plan to change the law to allow members of the oppositesex to enter into civil partnerships.
Civil partnerships were created in 2004, and predated the law allowing for same sex marriages, which came in in 2014.
Civil partnerships were brought in to allow couples of the same sex some of the same rights as married couples, but crucially the arrangement did not go quite as far the LGBT community wanted, and it was not until same sex marriages were allowed that the position changed.
However in the meantime, there was also a campaign which resulted in a case which went to the Supreme Court, the highest court in the land, to also allow civil partnerships for members of the opposite sex, as that was specifically prevented by the legislation. Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan were successful, and the Supreme Court held that the Civil Partnership Act 2004, allowing civil partnerships between same sex couples, was incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.
The Government listened, and the Prime Minister has announced the plans to allow opposite sex couples to have the same rights as same sex couples to enter into a civil partnership.
A couple can form a civil partnership simply by signing a document. There is no requirement for any ceremony to take place or for the exchange of vows, as there is for marriage.
But why is this important?
It is widely accepted that there is a decrease year on year in couples getting married. So more and more people are living together and not getting married. There are an estimated 3.3 million cohabiting couples in the UK, many believing they have similar rights and protections to married couples.
As I’ve written before, there is, despite what people may believe, NO SUCH THING AS COMMON LAW MARRIAGE.
Couples living together do not acquire legal rights, simply because they are living together as a couple. That extends to property and inheritance rights, rights over children (except where father’s name is on the birth certificate, meaning that both parents at least share Parental; Responsibility) and so on.
Many couples don’t want to marry but do want their relationship to be legally recognised.
It is yet to be confirmed what the details of the new legislation will be, so watch this space.