You may have seen all over the news in June 2018 that the Supreme Court dealt with the issue of civil partnerships for mixed-sex couples.
What are civil partnerships?
They were created in 2004 to give same-sex couples – who at the time couldn’t marry – similar legal and financial protection to those who married. They weren’t available to mixed-sex couples. There was a real issue aired in the consultation period before 2004 about same-sex couples being able to ‘marry’ and so the term ‘civil partnership’ was used as being a bit more palatable.
Then, the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 legalised same-sex marriage in England and Wales. Since then, same-sex couples there have been able to choose between marriage or civil partnerships. The reason the issue came before the court was that a mixed-sex couple said it was unfair that they also could not have a civil partnership. The Supreme Court agreed with them.
What were the choices for the government?
They could have done nothing (not a good idea), they could have repealed/withdrawn the civil partnership legislation meaning that you got married or you didn’t (whether you were a same-sex couple or a mixed-sex couple) or they could have extended civil partnerships to same-sex couples.
I will admit to being surprised that they chose to extend the civil partnerships – until the issue of cost is considered. How much would it have cost for legislation, record keeping and administration to convert the civil partnerships that do remain or leave as they are?………
Why do same-sex couples want the choice for a civil partnership?
This is such a personal question. Comments have been that ‘marriage’ is steeped in ‘ownership’ of property or a wife; that in the historical context it was very much about the male figure being ‘the boss’ and this does not reflect what couples want in the modern-day society. Comments have been that it a civil partnership reflects an equal, modern partnership and is something they want for their children to see.
So, that’s it then?
Well, we haven’t seen any of the regulations yet. Same-sex couples in a civil partnership cannot apply to dissolve the civil partnership for the reason of adultery whereas a married mixed-sex couple can divorce for the reason of adultery. Will we still have this difference?
And what about families who live together (cohabit) but neither get married nor enter civil partnerships? The law in their situation is still a mess and there can be real unfairness when the family separate or after a death with real financial impact. I think this is still an issue not solved by simply extending civil partnerships to same-sex couples – no matter how hopeful the government might be that they have a cost effective fix.
Married or not, in a civil partnership or not we can guide and advise you when your family is changing.