Theresa May has today announced that the government will allow opposite sex couples to enter into civil partnerships, rather than get married. This follows on from the well publicised case of Rebecca Steinfield and Charles Keidan, who took their request for a civil partnership to the Supreme Court earlier this year. The Supreme Court confirmed that the current legal position, which prevented a civil partnership between Ms Steinfield and Mr Keidan was discriminatory.
This is without doubt a positive step for equality and leaves us in a position where either marriage or civil partnership will be available to all couples, regardless of whether they are the same sex or opposite sex.
However, it is questionable whether it will truly provide greater security for unmarried couples and their families, as the government has claimed. A civil partnership will still require action by a couple to formalise their relationship. Many cohabiting couples have simply been unaware of the need to take any legal steps and are often under the misguided idea that they have automatic rights as 'common law husband and wife' which simply does not exist in England and Wales.
Family lawyers like myself have long called for reform to the law to protect all couples in established relationships, both on separation and death. It is important that the introduction of civil partnerships does not prevent that vital step taking place.
All couples in England and Wales will be able to choose to have a civil partnership rather than get married, Theresa May has announced.