The Isle of Man has become the only place in the British Isles to allow heterosexual couples to enter into civil partnerships.
However, the situation is not entirely a straightforward one, with the UK saying that it will refuse to recognise civil partnerships registered between opposite-sex partners on the Isle of Man.
Since marriage was legalised for same-sex couples, the UK has been left with a situation where same-sex partners can enter into either a marriage or a civil partnership while opposite-sex couples can only enter into a marriage.
To some, this situation has made sense, as civil partnerships were originally conceived as a way to give homosexual couples the rights of marriage at a time when they still could not enter into a “full” marriage.
However, some heterosexual couples have expressed a wish to enter into a legally-recognised partnership without the cultural baggage of a marriage, and others have perceived an imbalance in the current system.
As such, there have been some calls to allow civil partnerships for opposite-sex partners. So far, however, the Isle of Man (which is not part of the UK) is the only part of the British Isles to recognise such partnerships.
The Isle of Man first started allowing opposite-sex civil partnerships this summer.
On 22nd July, the island implemented the Marriage and Civil Partnership Act 2016, which allowed same-sex couples to marry on the island as they can in the UK and also enabled heterosexual couples to enter into civil partnerships.
It was expected that this would place the rest of the country under pressure to follow suit, such as LGBT rights advocate Peter Tatchell who said that people would “wonder if the Isle of Man can have equal civil partnerships for opposite sex couples why not England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Island.”
Tatchell also said that, if heterosexual couples travelled to the Isle of Man in order to enter into such a partnership, this would place the UK in a position of having to decide whether those partnerships would be legally recognised.
The Isle of Man officials said at the time that they expected opposite-sex civil partnerships registered on the island to be recognised throughout the country in the same way as traditional marriages.
The UK, however, has since reached a decision that it does not intend to recognise these unions.
In October, the question was raised in earnest when a London couple, consisting of opposite-sex partners, did indeed travel to the Isle of Man specifically to enter into a civil partnership.
In a statement to parliament intended to resolve the matter, Caroline Dinenage, Equalities Minister, reiterated that “The 2004 Civil Partnership Act created civil partnerships for same sex couples only.”
She went on to say: “As opposite sex couples cannot lawfully register a civil partnership here, the Act provides that couples registering a relationship overseas are not to be treated as having formed a civil partnership if, at the time the relationship was formed, they were not of the same sex.”
Kerry Smith is the head of family law at K J Smith Solicitors, a specialist family law firm who deal with a wide range of issues including divorce, domestic violence, civil partnerships and prenuptial agreements.