The expansion of Civil Partnerships, a move to further equality in the law?

Marriage has been a traditional form of relationship within the UK for years. The law was hesitant and somewhat piecemeal in its move towards diversity, in light of increasing awareness of homosexual relationships, which culminated in the Civil Partnership Act 2004 and thereafter the Marriage (Same-sex Couples) Act 2013, which finally gave same sex relationships equal rights and recognition in the eyes of the law.

Whilst this transition in the law seemed somewhat positive, many commentators highlighted the clear restriction within the Civil Partnership Act which initially did not open such form of relationships to heterosexual couples. Following UK Supreme Court’s recent landmark decision, Civil Partnerships are now open to couples of all sexual orientation. Such ruling gave a chance for the court to rectify what they have stated to have been a “manifest inequality of treatment”.

This blog will examine the reasons why couples may want to enter Civil Partnerships, and the implications of the same.

Why do couples choose Civil Partnerships?

Whilst the move towards the expansion of Civil Partnerships is symbolic and is seen as the natural next stage of the law in this area, we need to understand why a couple may choose to opt for a Civil Partnership rather than marriage.

Some theorists suggest that marriage is a patriarchal institution designed for the oppression of women. Whilst this is not the case for every marriage, Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan rooted their argument based on the premise.

Further advocates for the expansion of Civil Partnerships, pinned their argument right back to the very basic principle of democracy. Following such line of analysis, it is a key element of the UK’s legal system that every person is equal in the eyes of the law, and therefore should be free to be treated in the same way and have the same type of relationships open to them.

Finally, one cannot ignore the rapidly growing number of cohabiting relationships within the UK. It is estimated that between 1996 and 2006, the number of cohabiting couples doubled from 1.5 million to 3.3 million (Office of National Statistics). As a result of this, the expansion of Civil Partnerships can promote greater family stability, with couples having an alternative to marriage. This should hopefully give children the best and most stable start to life.

What are the implications of the expansion in the law?

Firstly, as noted by York, there is no need for the traditional wedding ceremony, with the prescribed words, if you wish not to have one.

Secondly, similar to marriage, if and when the Civil Partnership ends, both parties have a legal responsibility to support one another financially when their civil partnership has ended.

In relation to property rights, again like a marriage, in case of any dispute both parties have the right to stay in the home regardless of who purchased it, or whoever’s name is on the mortgage.

Whilst it looks like Civil Partnerships are similar to marriage in terms of their legal implications, it must be noted annulment is not possible when it comes to Civil Partnerships, and that whilst financial arrangements can be made at the start of the Civil Partnerships, should they end prematurely, such agreement is known as a pre-registration agreement rather than the commonly known pre-nuptial agreement.

Closing remarks

Overall, the law has again developed within the fast-paced family sector, accommodating for equality and the opportunity for all couples to enter into a type of relationship which is not the traditional marriage structure.

It will be exciting to see the next stages of this development and the case law that will follow on from such Supreme Court ruling.

Author: Mak Singh

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