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Equal treatment of same sex couples in English family law?

Date:19 APR 2007

Ruth Kirby, Barrister, Renaissance Chambers. Following the Civil Partnership Act 2004 there are now very few ways in which the law treats same sex partnerships differently from marriages. However, notwithstanding the legal recognition granted to same-sex couples by the Act, they still cannot marry in the UK. In the Wilkinson v Kitzinger case Susan Wilkinson expressed how she felt that their Canadian marriage was 'downgraded' to a civil partnership in the UK. Is marriage different? The President has argued that it is and that there is a reason for retaining a distinction between same-sex and heterosexual couples which is grounded in a concept and definition of marriage emerging from the accepted view that it exists for the procreation of children and their subsequent nurture within a nuclear family, with mother and father carrying out pre-conceived gender roles.

The author argues that the President's view of family sits uneasily with the modern family as it exists in the UK. This article analyses the position in other jurisdictions where same-sex couples are permitted to marry and considers the likelihood of a change to the definition of marriage in the light of shifting public perceptions. It also considers some recent cases involving the children of same sex couples, the move away from historically orthodox forms of family and the increasing recognition of a variety of parenting models. See May [2007] Fam Law for the full article.