Legal change opens the door to heterosexual civil partnerships

New legislation has come into force allowing the government to legalise civil partnerships for heterosexual couples.

The Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths (Registration etc) Act 2019 empowers the government to “amend the Civil Partnership Act 2004 so that two persons who are not of the same sex are eligible to form a civil partnership in England and Wales (provided that they would be eligible to do so apart from the question of sex).”

This amendment must be in force, it continues, “no later than 31 December 2019.”

Civil partnerships were originally introduced by the 2004 Act to provide LGBT couples with a way to officially ratify their relationships that was legally equivalent to marriage, but lacked its social and religious overtones. Nine years later, the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013, opened the door to full marriage for LGBT couples, including those who had already entered civil partnerships.

But this development left the future of civil partnerships uncertain, with many suggesting they should be abolished. The government chose instead to leave the option of a civil partnership open, but controversially, left its restriction to LGBT couples in place.

Academics Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan campaigned against the exclusion of heterosexual couples, declaring in a series of court hearings that they objected to the “historically heteronormative and patriarchal” nature of traditional marriage and arguing that they should be allowed to enter a civil partnership instead. Finally, in June last year, the Supreme Court ruled that the exclusion of heterosexual couples was incompatible with human rights legislation, and the government duly announced that it would change the law.

If you would like to know more about this legal change, please feel free to contact Jeremy, Simon, Tricia, Adam, Simon, Gail or Sue on 01223 443333.