An interesting commentary on the recent ruling on heterosexual couples and civil partnerships written by Stala Charalambous, Partner and Head of Family Law at GSC Solicitors LLP.

On 21st February, the Judges in the Court of Appeal case Steinfeld and Keidan v Secretary of State for Education Judgement [2017] EWCA Civ 81] dismissed the Appeal of Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan, for the right of a couple of the same sex to be able to enter into a civil partnership. This has caused a stir in the media. The decision has been referred to as ‘discriminatory’ and a ‘Breach of Human Rights’.

At present, couples of the same sex can simply live together, without any legal rights, enter into a civil partnership or marry. Couples that are not of the same sex can either cohabit or marry. The law in relation to civil partnerships is set out in The Civil Partnership Act 1974. Section 3(1) (a) of the Act, prohibits couples who are not of the same sex from entering into a civil partnership.

A couple living together who have neither married nor entered into a civil partnership are referred to as cohabitees. A cohabitee does not have the same legal rights as either a married person or a person in a civil partnership. There is no legal recognition of a ‘common law wife’. To have any legal rights, a different sex couple would have to marry whilst a same sex couple have the additional option of entering into a civil partnership.

Tim Loughton MP for East Worthing and Shoreham, has presented a Bill (The Civil Partnership Act 2004 (Amendment) Bill 2016-17) before Parliament to amend The Civil Partnership Act1974 to allow couples of a different sex to enter into a Civil Partnership. This Bill will have the second reading on 24th March 2017.

The Government is adopting a cautious ‘wait and see’ approach. Statistical data has shown that since same sex couples have been able to marry, there have been less civil partnerships taking place and more of them have been dissolving. The government is therefore waiting to see what effect there will be on the number of civil partnerships being taken up by same sex couples now that they also have the option to marry. If fewer are choosing to enter into a civil partnership, then the government may decide to abolish civil partnership altogether.

A campaign aimed at overturning the ban on heterosexual couples entering into civil partnerships has gained ground despite defeat at the court of appeal, equal rights supporters have claimed.

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/feb/21/heterosexual-couples-should-not-be-allowed-civil-partnerships-court-rules