The government has announced that it supports the extension of civil partnerships to opposite sex couples following the widely publicised case of Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan, which came before the Supreme Court earlier this year.
In that case, the Supreme Court was called upon to decide whether the bar on opposite sex couples entering into civil partnerships breaches those couples’ rights under article 14 (the prohibition of discrimination) together with article 8 (the right to respect for private life) of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The Supreme Court unanimously allowed the appeal and made a declaration of incompatibility, which can be made where the court determines that a piece of legislation is inconsistent with ECHR rights. The court found that parts of the Civil Partnerships Act 2004 were incompatible with article 14 of the ECHR taken in conjunction with article 8.
Civil partnerships were created to give same sex couples the same legal protections afforded to married couples. In 2013, same sex marriage was legalised, except in Northern Ireland. Giving opposite sex couples the option of forming civil partnerships, as opposed to getting married, will address the current disparity in couples’ rights to formalise their relationships.