Zenith Family Current Awareness


21 March 2019

Marisa Allman

Last week saw the Parliamentary approval of new law enacted to enable a man and a woman to enter into a Civil Partnership for the first time.

The background to this decision is that the Civil Partnership Act 2004 enabled same sex couples to enter into a Civil Partnership, but not opposite sex couples. At that time same sex couples could not marry in England and Wales. However, in 2013 the government introduced the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013, which extended the institution of marriage to same sex couples.

This move created an inequality whereby same sex couples could choose whether to marry or enter a Civil Partnership, but opposite sex couples could not. On the 27th June 2018 the Supreme Court declared that the Government’s refusal to allow opposite-sex civil partnerships was incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights in the case of Steinfeld v Keidan [2018] UKSC 32.

It was left open to the government to decide how to rectify this inequality. One option was to remove the availability of Civil Partnership for all couples.

On the 15th March 2019 Parliament ended the unequal situation when it approved the Civil partnerships, Marriage and Deaths Bill, first introduced by Tim Loughton MP in 2017. This Bill enables the Secretary of State to amend the Civil Partnership Act 2004 so that two people who are not of the same sex are eligible to form a Civil Partnership.

At the forefront of the hard-fought campaign to change the law were Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan themselves, who hold a conscientious objection to marriage, and who brought proceedings to judicially review the government’s decision not to extend Civil Partnership to opposite sex couples in 2016. The couple wanted legal recognition of their relationship without “patriarchal baggage”. In June 2018 the Supreme Court finally and unanimously ruled in their favour.

Couples who choose to live together without a legally binding and recognised relationship status are sometimes financially vulnerable, particularly in the event of death of one partner or separation. It is not known how many opposite sex couples would wish to avail themselves of the same protections afforded by marriage without entering into the institution of marriage with all its connotations, but this opportunity will now at least be open to them. It is anticipated that the first Civil Partnership ceremonies between men and women will be able to take place later this year.

For social media commentary please search #ADateToCelebrate

If you wish to read the Bill please click HERE

Marisa thanks Pupil Barrister Eleanor Irons for her help with this article. 

Current Awareness

By the Family team