Why are civil partnerships not available to straight partners?

A heterosexual couple have had their bid to enter into a civil partnership turned down by the High Court in London. This case has caused many people to question why civil partnerships are not available to straight partners.

Rebecca Steinfeld, 34, and Charles Keidan, 39, are academics who have been in a committed relationship for over five years and have an eight-month-old baby together. The couple consider marriage to a patriarchal institution and want to gain state recognition of their relationship through a civil partnership.

The Civil Partnership Act 2004 defines a civil partnership as “a relationship between two people of the same sex.” When a couple enter into a civil partnership, they do not create the same legal relationship as between a married couple, but the rights are very similar, such as in relation to pensions, children and property.

The couple argued that the Government’s refusal to grant them a civil partnership was “incompatible with equality law” and that their Article 8 right to a private and family life was being interfered with.

Karon Monaghan QC, the barrister representing the couple, presented to the court that, “The claimants submit that the prohibition on access to a civil partnership by opposite-sex couples is directly discriminatory on grounds of sexual orientation since same-sex couples may enter into a civil partnership or a marriage, but opposite-sex couples may only enter into a marriage.”

The judge, Mrs Justice Andrews, rejected these claims saying, “The denial of a further means of formal recognition which is open to same-sex couples, does not amount to unlawful state interference with the claimants’ right to family life or private life, any more doxycycline with no prescription than the denial of marriage to same-sex couples did prior to the enactment of the 2013 act.”

However, the judge did give the couple permission to appeal the decision due to the issues of “wider importance” that were involved in the case and added that many people would agree with their position that the current laws are “unfair”.

There are indeed many people who agree with the couple’s claim. A change.org petition started by the couple has reached over 60,000 signatures.

Family structures and relationships have changed dramatically over time. In 1970, there were 415,487 marriages in England and Wales, but by 2009, the number of marriages had fallen to only 231,490.

Couples are eschewing marriage for many reasons. Many people share the views of Steinfeld and Keidan and feel that marriage is a patriarchal institution that has been used to oppress and control women throughout history.

Nowadays most people would never consider getting married without having spent time living together, and as time passes they may not see any reason to get married. Indeed, the fall in marriage rates has been coupled with a sharp rise in the numbers of couples cohabiting. The Office for National Statistics reported that the numbers of cohabiting couple families have grown by almost 30% over the last ten years, and this trend is expected to continue.

Relationships have changed; it is time for the law to catch up and allow heterosexual couples to gain state recognition of their relationship and legal protections through civil partnership. You can find out more about civil partnerships in Scotland from www.familylawglasgow.com

Influence change and sign the petition

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Molly McGrady 1 Article
Molly studied Law and English Literature at the University of Glasgow. Her interests include EU law, politics and languages.

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