Landmark decision on opposite sex Civil Partnerships could see end to them all together?

After a lengthy legal dispute, Charles Keidan and Rebecca Steinfeld have won their legal battle in the Supreme Court to see Civil Partnerships open to opposite sex couples.

The basis of their argument was that restricting the availability of Civil Partnerships to same sex couples was incompatible with equality law.

After losing in the Court of Appeal in February 2017, the couple resolutely brought the case before the highest court in the land.

Alison Gaddes, associate in the family law department at Wake Smith, looks at the case and the future.

“Their argument was that current law discriminated against them for being in an opposite sex relationship, breaching Article 14 of the European Convention of Human Rights, and their rights under Article 8 relating to the right to private and family life.

“The decision is a victory for those who are fundamentally against the institution of marriage.

“It was not until the introduction of same sex civil partnerships that there was any other alternative to marriage creating the same rights and responsibilities.

“Civil Partnerships opened much needed and long overdue rights for same sex couples, providing both security in life and death for their families.

“The decision now means that those opposed to the institution of marriage may now have an alternative providing them with the same rights as married couples, subject to government approval.”

In 2015, 6,493 same sex couples married, 890 formed civil partnerships and 9,156 converted their civil partnership into marriage.

Since the introduction of same sex marriage in 2013, there has been a steady decline in the number of same sex civil partnerships, until 2016, when their number saw a rise by 3.4%, the first rise since the introduction of same sex marriage. With more than 68% of these being men, and 50% of these being over 50.

Alison added: “Of those partnerships, 38% were formed in London. This could be reflective of the international nature of the capital or an indication of gay men and women of a certain age’s ideals.

“It seems that since the introduction of same sex marriage, more couples are choosing marriage over civil partnerships.”

Statistics suggest that only 44% of same sex male relationships choose marriage and this is reflected in the Civil Partnership data.

So what is the future for Civil Partnerships?

Alison said: “The Supreme Court’s decision could mean the beginning of the end.

“Although a ruling has been made, it is for Government to change legislation so that opposite sex couples can form Civil Partnerships.

“The current law does not consider consummation of the relationship. Whether this shall remain for opposite sex couples is unclear, neither is there a fact of adultery for the dissolution of a civil partnership.

“There may have to be differentiations made in legislation between same sex and opposite sex couples, or does there? Will the concept of consummation or adultery really have any impact? If we are moving towards a no fault system, should including additional fault be introduced at all?

“What may be an unexpected outcome is that the government may decide to abandon civil partnerships all together, given their decline and the governments wish to promote marriage in all its forms, rather than become embroiled with further confrontation.”

For further advice on family law contact Alison Gaddes at or on 0114 224 2188

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