The Civil Partnership Act 2004 extended to same sex couples the rights, responsibilities and protections that were available through marriage.  At the time same sex couples were prevented from entering into marriage.

The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 subsequently enabled same sex couples to enter into marriage.  It also enabled civil partners to convert their partnership into a marriage, if they chose to do so.

Ironically, therefore, same sex couples who had for centuries been denied the opportunity to enter into marriage have enjoyed the choice of entering into a civil partnership or a marriage since 2013.  By contrast, however, opposite sex couples still only currently enjoy the ability to enter into a marriage.

In June 2018 The Supreme Court Judgment of Steinfeld and Keidan v Secretary of State for International Development found that the Civil Partnership Act 2004 preventing opposite sex couples from entering into a civil partnership was incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.

Tim Loughton, the Member of Parliament for East Worthing, subsequently brought a Private Member’s Bill before Parliament in the form of the Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths (Registration Etc.) Act 2019.  The effect of the Bill is to require the Government to make and bring into force Regulations to extend civil partnerships to opposite sex couples.

In July 2019, the Government Equalities Office published a policy paper and consultation which can be accessed via the following link:

The consultation period has now closed on 20 August 2019 and will inform the Government’s legislative response.

Neil Graham, a Partner at Grayfords, comments as follows:

“The Supreme Court Judgment and the Private Member’s Bill recognises the fact that people wish to have greater flexibility and freedom in the way in which they ask for their relationships to be recognised.  Not only has Parliament now been asked to consider how best to extend civil partnerships to opposite sex couples, but the paper published by the Law Commission in as long ago as 2007 also proposed legislation affording rights and protection to people who choose to live together but neither marry nor enter into a civil partnership.  Many people incorrectly assume that the law recognises the “common law” concept of a spouse.  It is important that people have access to information and advice not only as to how their relationships may be recognised but also as to the consequences in the unlikely event of its breakdown.”

This article is by Neil Graham

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