From 31 December 2019 opposite sex couples will be able to enter into civil partnerships with each other.
The Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths Act was one of the last Acts of Parliament to pass prior to the dissolution of Parliament last week ahead of the forthcoming election.
Civil Partnerships were introduced in England and Wales with the Civil Partnership Act 2004. This gave same sex couples the ability to enter into a legal relationship which afforded them many of the rights of marriage. Following the introduction of same sex marriage there has been a slight decline in the number of same sex couples entering civil partnerships. However, many couples prefer to enter civil partnerships rather than marriage.
For some time campaigners have argued that it is discriminatory for civil partnerships to only be available for same sex couples in the same way that it was previously discriminatory that only heterosexual couples could marry. This issue was heard by the Supreme Court in 2018 where it was found that the law was discriminatory and contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights.
It remains to be seen whether this change in the law will encourage heterosexual cohabiting couples to enter into civil partnerships. The rights available to cohabiting couples who have not married or entered into a civil partnership are more limited on relationship breakdown. Therefore, it can be argued that this change in the law will offer greater legal protection for some couples in the future.
Mixed-sex couples will be able to enter civil partnerships from 31 December.