The prime minister Theresa May has announced that the law will be changed to extend the option of civil partnerships to heterosexual couples. This follows a ruling by the Supreme Court earlier this year that the current law is discriminatory and unlawful.
Helen Morgan, family law expert with Mooney Everett in Ormskirk, Lancashire welcomes the announcement, ‘This will provide another option for couples who wish to formalise their relationship without getting married.’
Civil partnerships were introduced in 2004 and in 2013 same-sex couples were given the right to get married or convert their civil partnerships into marriage. In June this year, the Supreme Court ruled in Steinfeld and Keidan v Secretary of State for International Development that there was no justification for the ongoing discrimination which prevented heterosexual couples from having the same choice.
The prime minister announced that ‘… 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.’
Law Society president Christina Blacklaws said: ‘We have been in favour of extending civil partnerships to opposite sex couples for a long time. That’s because we support the principle of non-discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation. So we’re pleased to see the government is responding to recent judge-led decisions highlighting the need for changes in the law to reflect 21st century society in this country.’
Helen points out that ‘While this extends the choice for those couples who wish to formalise their relationship, over 3 million couples who simply choose to live together still do so with limited legal protection and many mistakenly believe that they have rights under a ‘common law’ marriage.’
This is not the case, and until the law changes, we strongly encourage couples who do not wish to marry or enter a civil partnership to draw up a cohabitation agreement. Otherwise, they can find themselves facing a range of problems if their relationship breaks down.’
This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Please note that the law may have changed since this article was published.