Head of Family at Kuits, Katie McCann, comments on the recent news that a heterosexual couple have lost their Court of Appeal battle to enter into a civil partnership.
This week, Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan lost their battle to legalise civil partnerships for heterosexual couples in the Court of Appeal.
The couple challenged a previous High Court ruling that was made last year, stating that they could not have a civil partnership because The Civil Partnership Act 2004 demands that they be of the same sex, which they argued was discriminatory.
Many people have since asked me why this couple would bother – if they have the option of just getting married, why would they enter into a stressful and costly litigation situation?
Let’s lift the bonnet on this for a moment. What are the real differences between marriage and civil partnerships?
Well, in a civil partnership, you cannot say you are ‘married’ – no actual ceremony needs to take place (save the signing of a formal document, although most couples do add some ceremonial aspect to their day); there can be no religion involved; and, interestingly, the certificate includes the names of both partner’s parents (instead of just fathers, like on marriage certificates).
Furthermore, adultery cannot be used as a ground for a dissolution (its dissolution in a civil partnership not divorce).
However, when it comes to how finances are dealt with and the law that surrounds that, then the provisions are almost identical to those when dealing with a financial application upon divorce.
Civil partnerships were initially brought about to give same-sex couples the option of legalising their relationship along the lines of marriage, before the law allowed them to marry.
As such, some argue that civil partnerships are just a hangover from the time before lawmakers felt comfortable enough to take the final step to true equality by making marriage available to all – a half-way house before real equality was achieved.
Arguing to allow access to civil partnerships to heterosexual couples is seen by those of this view to be flipping back in time.
On the other hand, there is a case to be heard that the couple’s human rights are being potentially being interfered with, as same-sex couples now have more options than heterosexual couples, which doesn’t exactly lend itself to equality.
In my opinion, the government really should be thinking about cleaning up the legislative landscape. They might, for example, decide to get rid of civil partnerships all together, or make them available to all.
If you would like to discuss any of the issues raised in this article, please call our Family team on 0161 832 3434.
Katie McCann is head of family law and in-house counsel at Kuits Solicitors in Manchester City Centre. She has a special interest in resolving high value relationship breakdown disputes.