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Civil partnerships: an option for all?

Recent changes in the law enabled existing civil partnerships to be converted to marriage, as from 10th December 2014.

Within days of this event and with the ink still wet on the new marriage certificates, a heterosexual couple gave notice of their intention to seek Judicial Review to enable them to enter into a civil partnership.

The Civil Partnership Act 2004 currently states that only same sex couples can enter into a civil partnership.  The recent change in the law has resulted in a potentially discriminatory situation whereby same sex couples can choose between marriage or civil partnership, but the same choice is not available to heterosexual couples.

The couple in question even booked a civil partnership ceremony and attended their local Registrar in an attempt to have a civil partnership ceremony.  The Registrar, whilst sympathetic, declined to act.

The couple have stated that they do not feel the traditional status of marriage reflects “the type of relationship they want.”  Of course there could be numerous reasons why a heterosexual couple might prefer a civil partnership to give them the rights and responsibilities of a legal relationship, without entering into a marriage.  In modern society cohabitation is commonplace but the legal rights afforded to cohabiting couples are nothing like those provided by marriage or civil partnerships.    Civil partnerships may well be a preferred option for couples who live together, should they become available.

This recent action is likely to be the subject of hot debate.  It remains to be seen whether the law will be amended to remove the requirement for couples to be of the same sex in order to enter into a civil partnership.