Let’s not start Civil Partnering just yet

This week a The Supreme Court ruled in favour of Rebecca Steinfeld, 37, and Charles Keidan, 41, from London. The couple were bidding for the right to become Civil Partners instead of having to get married. Currently, the Civil Partnership Act 2004 only applies to same-sex couples who are not closely related.

So will the law now change?

The problem is that the case does not oblige the Government to change the law, and importantly means that nothing has changed yet until that happens. Civil Partnerships were originally introduced to allow gay couples the same legal treatment in terms of inheritance, tax, pensions and other areas as marriage. So gay Civil Partners have the same legal rights as heterosexual married couples. The Government has repeatedly sought to keep Civil Partnerships for same-sex couples but it appears now that their battle is lost as the Court found that the legislation is incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.

In case you are wondering what the difference is between a marriage and Civil Partnership for heterosexual couples will be, we will have to wait and see. Rebecca and Charles argued that traditional marriage “treated women as property for centuries” and said, “We want to raise our children as equal partners and feel that a civil partnership – a modern, symmetrical institution – sets the best example for them.” This is a distinction which has been available to gay couples since the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013, so it’s not hard to see why the Court made its decision. What’s somewhat surprising is that according to BBC News there are only 63,000 couples in the UK in Civil Partnership.

So what happens next?

Well we will have to wait for legislation, and it appears that this Government and the next are a little tied up with other matters, so we should not hold our breaths. Whether the new or existing legislation will then allow co-habiting siblings to become Civil Partners is not known either, though many think it unlikely.

So what’s happening and when? We have no idea, but we’ll let you know when the changes come.


Stephen Wilkes

Head of Estate Planning

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