Hetereosexual couples: what will the future mean for civil partnerships?

The well-documented case of Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan has barely left the headlines whilst the court ruling continued as to whether or not the couple would be granted a civil partnership. Now the Supreme Court has unanimously ruled in favour of the couple, what could this mean for other couples in future?

Call for equality

Civil partnerships were introduced in 2004 as part of the Civil Partnerships Act. At that time, marriage among same sex couples will still illegal, but a civil partnership allowed couples to enter into a formal legal agreement without the religious attachments. However, whilst marriage became legalised in 2014, civil partnerships remained exclusive to same sex couples.

In the case of Steinfield and Keidan, a heterosexual couple, a civil partnership was better suited to their circumstances. They met in 2010 and had two children, so there was no doubt there was a mutual and genuine attachment. However, they couldn’t legalise their union other than getting married – an institution that both couples felt very strongly against.

Redressing the balance

The judges admitted that there was a potential breach of human rights, but the judges ruled that current UK law just wasn’t compatible with human rights laws on discrimination and the right to a private and family life.

However, there was clearly a budding need for the law to be re-addressed. There are currently around 63,000 couples living in civil partnerships in Britain and some 3.3 million co-habiting couples. Steinfeld and Keidan were not the first couple to seek a civil partnership. In October 2016, Claire Beale and Martin Loat had to travel to the Isle of Man – at the time the only part of the British Isles allowing both same and different sex civil partnerships – to become the first couple to enter into a civil partnership. Loat now chairs the Equal Civil Partnerships Campaign, where more than 130,000 people signed a petition.

What next?

Thanks to this latest ruling, the Government is being urged to do the right thing and extend civil partnerships to all – even though there is no obligation for law to be changed.

If you have any questions relating to equality, the equality act, civil partnerships or marriage, contact Downs Solicitors to see how we can help.