28th Feb 2018

Civil partnerships for all? The debate continues

‘Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths (Registration Etc.)’ Private Members Bill proceeds to next stage in Parliament

On 2 February 2018, Tim Loughton’s Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths (Registration Etc.) Bill received its second reading in the House of Commons. The Bill now proceeds through to the Committee stage where it will be scrutinised line by line. The progress of the Bill marks a significant step in a long journey through Parliament but for many, it will be worth the wait if the Bill is ultimately passed.

What does the Bill provide for?

The Bill provides:

‘that opposite sex couples may enter a civil partnership; to make provision about the registration of the names of the mother of each party to a marriage or civil partnership; to make provision about the registration of stillborn deaths; to give coroners the power to investigate stillborn deaths; and for connected purposes.’

In so far as opposite sex couples are concerned, the Bill intends to do away with what is considered by many as a discriminatory practice against those opposite-sex couples who wish to enter into a legally recognised union other than marriage. Whilst it won’t necessarily open the floodgates, it will mean that civil partnerships become an option for both same-sex and opposite-sex couples. At present, only same-sex couples are permitted to enter into a civil partnership and, as of December 2014, those civil partnerships were capable of conversion to marriages in England and Wales. Arguably therefore, it does leave somewhat of a lacuna as regards equality for both same-sex and opposite sex couples.

Let us also not forget the key case of Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan who, having obtained permission to appeal last year, will be asking the Supreme Court to consider whether heterosexual couples should be given the right to enter into a civil partnership should they wish to do so. The hearing is listed to take place in May 2018.

On the ground, what does this mean for those who enter into civil partnerships? Legal rights are then aligned with those who are married, that is to say, rights to financial provision on relationship breakdown, pension rights on death where applicable, marriage allowances and tax breaks to name but a few. Crucially, these rights are not available to cohabiting couples which leaves many individuals vulnerable when these relationships come to an end for whatever reason. If civil partnerships are made available to everyone therefore, then the financial benefits for couples entering into such a union could be hugely significant.

For more information on civil partnerships and same sex marriage, please contact one of our experienced family lawyers at Family Law in Partnership E: hello@flip.co.uk or T: 020 7420 5000.