• 10 MAR 17
    Can I enter into a civil partnership if I’m in a heterosexual relationship?

    Can I enter into a civil partnership if I’m in a heterosexual relationship?

    While my partner and I have been together for some years and want to legally cement our relationship, we don’t want to get married. Can we enter into a civil partnership instead?

    Civil partnerships provide the same legal and financial protection as marriage, however under current law only same-sex couples can enter into a civil partnership in the UK, apart from in the Isle of Man.

    This has recently come under intense scrutiny, with London couple Charles Keidan and Rebecca Steinfeld even taking the matter to the Court of Appeal.

    A landmark legal case

    Charles and Rebecca sought to secure legal recognition of their relationship but didn’t consider marriage suitable for them, so applied to their local registry office to register their notice of intention to form a civil partnership.

    After this was refused in December 2014, the couple launched a bid for judicial review at the High Court, before it was passed on to the Court of Appeal.

    A breach of human rights?

    Charles and Rebecca’s claim is that restricting civil partnerships to same-sex couples is incompatible with Article 14 (read with Article 8) of the European Convention on Human Rights, which is incorporated into UK law by the Human Rights Act 1998.

    It states that everyone should be treated equally by law, regardless of sex or sexual orientation.

    These convention rights are currently incorporated into UK law by the Human Rights Act 1998.

    In response to a declaration of incompatibility, the Government would be expected to extend civil partnerships to all, regardless of sex or sexual orientation. This would enable both same-sex and opposite-sex couples to form civil partnerships.

    While all three Court of Appeal judges agreed there was a potential breach of their human rights and that the discrimination could not continue indefinitely, two of the judges decided the government should have more time to decide whether to overturn the ban on opposite-sex couples entering into civil partnerships.

    The government may make a speedy decision on the subject or it could be a Supreme Court decision if the couple proceed with a further appeal.

    While the decision has yet to be made, the stance so far signals a review of current law is in the pipeline as the government will otherwise need to provide convincing reasons why it’s necessary to exclude opposite-sex couples to form civil partnerships, especially now that same-sex couples can marry.

    For more information on civil partnerships, contact David Connor on 01706 225621 or email him at David.Connor@whnsolicitors.co.uk