What now for Civil Partnerships?29 Jun 2018
Following the recent Supreme Court ruling, a heterosexual couple should now be allowed to enter into a civil partnership, which the Civil Partnership Act 2004 (CPA) in its current form restricts to same sex couples.
The CPA introduced civil partnerships to overcome the inequality that same sex couples could not marry. It provided a way of formalising their relationship and giving them access to the same rights as married couples. This was eventually followed by the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013, which allowed same sex couples to marry and, if desired, the conversion of existing civil partnerships to marriage. The Government took the decision not to repeal the CPA and kept civil partnerships as an option. Parliament had recognised the inequality that would be created, however they argued that they could assess societal attitudes towards same sex marriages before deciding what to do with civil partnerships.
The new legislation had created a situation of inequality where same sex couples had the option to choose a civil partnership, whereas heterosexual couples could only marry. Civil partnerships are considered by some as a way of formalising a relationship to benefit from the same rights of a married couple without the religious or patriarchal elements of a marriage and it was argued that this option should be available to opposite sex couples equally.
The Supreme Court ruled that the bar on opposite sex couples entering a civil partnership was discriminatory being incompatible with Article 14 (the prohibition on discrimination) when taken in conjunction with Article 8 (the right to respect for family life) of the European Convention of Human Rights.
Parliament will now need to decide what to do with the current legislation to ensure compatibility. Parliament could extend civil partnerships to opposite sex couples, abolish all civil partnerships altogether or prevent new civil partnerships being registered. Only time will tell.
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