Civil partnerships to be opened to opposite-sex couples

Opposite-sex couples in England and Wales will be able to choose to have a civil partnership rather than get married, Theresa May has announced

Opposite-sex couples in England and Wales will be able to choose to have a civil partnership rather than get married, Theresa May has announced

Opposite-sex couples in England and Wales will be given the right to enter civil partnerships, the government has said. The shift will provide greater security for unmarried couples and their families, according to the prime minister.

It will also, said May, address the “imbalance” that allows same-sex couples to enter a civil partnership or get married – a choice denied to opposite-sex couples at the moment. In June, the current system was found to be in breach of European law.

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Justices at the UK’s highest court unanimously found in favour of Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan, a couple from London, declaring that their human rights had been breached. They had launched their own legal bid to be allowed to have a civil partnership.

A statement by the couple, written before today’s (2 October) judgment, read: “We don’t think there is any justification for barring opposite-sex couples from forming civil partnerships. On the contrary, there are many positive reasons to remove the bar. Opening civil partnerships to opposite sex couples would be fair, popular and good for families and their dependent children.

“Personally, we wish to form a civil partnership because that captures the essence of our relationship and values. For us, a civil partnership best reflects who we are, how we see our relationship and our role as parents – a partnership of equals. We want a civil partnership to cement our commitment and strengthen the security of our family unit.”

For us, a civil partnership best reflects who we are, how we see our relationship and our role as parents – a partnership of equals

The court said that the Civil Partnership Act 2004 – which only applies to same-sex couples – was incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Scottish government is also now carrying out a consultation on allowing mixed-sex couples to enter into civil partnerships.

Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan

There are more than 3.3 million unmarried couples in the UK who live together and who share financial responsibilities according to government figures. Nearly half of these have children. These households do not have the same legal protections as those who have a civil partnership or marriage.

The decision was welcomed by chair of the Equal Civil Partnerships campaign, Martin Loat, but he pressed for the government to say exactly when the change would take effect.

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