Historic civil partnerships case shows a much-changed world

The recent headlines about a heterosexual couple who won a lengthy legal battle for the right to opt for a civil partnership instead of marriage could have huge ramifications for society.

The much publicised Supreme Court ruling in favour of London couple, Rebecca Steinfeld, and Charles Keidan certainly could be wide-reaching, especially for the 3 million plus couples cohabiting in the UK.

Steinfeld and Keidan had fought for over four years with the government before the Supreme Court came to conclude that the Civil Partnership Act 2004, which only applies to same-sex couples, contravenes the European Convention on Human Rights.

It comes at a time when Civil Partnerships are waning following the legalisation of same-sex marriage. Now though, it may be that Civil Partnerships could be seen as a sensible channel of protection for those who disagree with the tradition of marriage.

Although the case was won by the couple it does not oblige the government to alter the law, but it does make it more likely.

It is worth pointing out also that in a civil partnership, a couple is entitled to the same legal treatment as if they were married. Normal co-habiting partners are not afforded any legal protection, despite many people believing what is known as the ‘common law marriage’ myth.

The couple who have two children, said the “legacy of marriage,” which “treated women as property for centuries” was not something they wished to pursue saying they wanted  to raise their children as equal partners and feel that a civil partnership – a modern, symmetrical institution – is the best option for them.

Since March 2014, same-sex couples have been able to choose whether to enter a civil partnership or marry, but this has not been possible for cohabiting men and women, which led the couple to argue that the law was discriminatory.

How the government acts after this judgment will now be under the microscope. However, what is certain, in a much-changed world where same-sex marriage is now accepted as a norm when it was unimaginable a generation ago, the way of co-habiting is certainly adapting much more for the world as it is. The future looks interesting.

If you wish to know more about any aspect of family law, we at Dale and Newbery are happy to help, contact us today.


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