The Civil Partnership (Opposite-sex Couples) Regulations 2019

24 / 12 / 2019

On 5 December 2005, the Civil Partnership Act came into force, enabling same-sex couples to legally register their relationship – with similar rights and obligations to that of marriage.

Subsequently, The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013, was passed on 17 July 2013, allowing for same-sex couples to marry – the same as opposite sex couples had been able to do for many, many years previously.

This led to a situation where couples of the opposite sex could marry and those of the same sex could also marry, or choose instead to form a civil partnership. Some were not happy about this – stating that by not allowing opposite sex couples to enter into a civil partnership was a breach of human rights. One (opposite sex) couple, Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan, decided to pursue this issue through the Courts and the case went all the way to the Supreme Court.

Their reasons were set out in the judgment from the Court of Appeal which stated (in part):

The appellants, Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan, are a young couple in a committed long-term relationship. They wish to formalise their relationship, but they have deep-rooted and genuine ideological objections to marriage based upon what they consider to be its historically patriarchal nature. They consider that the status of civil partnership would reflect their values and give due recognition to the equal nature of their relationship. Ms Steinfeld and Mr Keidan in good faith consider that marriage does not reflect the way in which they understand their commitment to each other or wish their relationship to be seen.”

When the case reached the Supreme Court, the Court found that by not extending the ability of opposite sex couples to enter into a civil partnership was discriminatory and a breach of human rights.

The Judgment was given by the Supreme Court on 27 June 2018.

The Supreme Court said in its ruling:

“…The point at which the now admitted discrimination will come to an end is still not  in sight. The interests of the community in denying those different sex couples who have a genuine objection to being married the opportunity to enter a civil partnership are unspecified and not easy to envisage. In contrast, the denial of those rights for an indefinite period may have far-reaching consequences for those who wish to avail  of them – and who are entitled to assert them – now. As Briggs LJ observed in the Court of Appeal, some couples in the appellants’ position “may suffer serious fiscal disadvantage if, for example, one of them dies before they can form a civil partnership”…

“I would allow the appeal and make a declaration that sections 1 and 3 of CPA (to the extent that they preclude a different sex couple from entering into a civil

partnership) are incompatible with article 14 of ECHR taken in conjunction with article 8 of the Convention” (Article 14 being “The enjoyment of the rights and freedoms set forth in this Convention shall be secured without discrimination on any ground such as sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status” and Article 8 being “ (1) Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.

(2) There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others”).

Following the Judgment referred to above, earlier in 2019 The Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths (Registration etc.) Bill was introduced proposing to allow opposite sex couples to enter into a civil partnership.  

Subsequently, the Civil Partnership (Opposite-sex Couples) Regulations 2019 came into force early this month allowing opposite sex couples to register their civil partnerships as from 31 December 2019.

It is therefore anticipated that the first opposite sex couple civil partnership ceremonies will take place very soon!