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The Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday that a heterosexual couple were discriminated against by virtue of the fact they were unable to enter into a civil partnership instead of getting married. The Civil Partnership Act 2004 currently only applies to same-sex couples and as such the Court found that the legislation is incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights in relation to discrimination and the right to a private and family life.

Whilst the ruling itself will not change the law as it currently stands, it is a huge development and paves the way for the Government to act upon it and extend civil partnerships to all couples in the same way that marriage is now available for same-sex couples.

There are several reasons why some couples may prefer to have the option to enter into a civil partnership rather than getting married: –

  • There is no religious element to civil partnerships.
  • Some people do not agree with marriage as an institution and the associations that come with it in relation to patriarchy. For example, only the father’s name and occupation of both parties is recorded on a marriage certificate as opposed to both parents.
  • There is more flexibility and freedom for the parties for the ceremony to be tailored to their own preferences, for example, there is no requirement for the parties to exchange vows and the ceremony doesn’t have to be carried out in a registered venue unlike marriage.
  • Civil partnerships offer the legal protection afforded by marriage in the event the relationship breaks down and so couples do not have to feel pressured to get married in order to obtain that protection.

It remains to be seen if and when the Government will take action and make civil partnerships available to all couples but it is arguably clear that the law as it stands is unfair and discriminatory and that everyone should have the option to enter into a civil partnership if they do not want to get married but still wish to formalise their relationship.

For more information, feel free to contact our family specialists Laura Clapton and Sarah Manning on 01133229222 or