The Government has announced its intention to introduce civil partnerships for heterosexual couples in England and Wales as an alternative to getting married, saying that the move will provide greater security for unmarried couples and their families.
This follows the Supreme Court’s ruling in June that the current system, where same-sex couples are able to enter a civil partnership or get married, is in breach of Articles 8 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favour of Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan, who had launched their own legal bid to be allowed to have a civil partnership.
Speaking at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham, Prime Minister Theresa May said the move would give all couples the same choices in life, stating:
"This change in the law helps protect the interests of opposite-sex couples who want to commit, want to formalise their relationship but don't necessarily want to get married.
As home secretary, I was proud to sponsor the legislation that created equal marriage.
Now, by extending civil partnerships, we are making sure that all couples, be they same-sex or opposite-sex, are given the same choices in life."
The government said there was "a number of legal issues to consider, across pension and family law" and that ministers would now consult on the technical detail. Equalities Minister Penny Mordaunt promised that the change in the law would happen "as swiftly as possible".Graham Coy, Senior partner at Stowe Family Law LLP commented:
"This is a very welcome development and will provide protection to those who live together but do not want to marry.
What it will not do is give any protection to the increasing number of couples who do live together but do not want to marry nor enter in to a Civil Partnership.
That anomaly still needs to be dealt with."
Frances Hughes, Founding Partner at Hughes Fowler Carruthers stated:
"The government'sdecision to extend civil partnerships to heterosexual couples will be welcomedby the legal profession. The announcement is not before time, gender-neutral civil partnerships having been available in the Netherlands and Belgium foralmost 20 years."