There are over 3 million opposite-sex couples that cohabit but choose not to marry and so do not have the legal protection that married couples or civil partners have. At present, same-sex couples have the option to formalise their relationship by either entering into a civil partnership or getting married, whereas opposite-sex couples can only marry. This has caused issues of discrimination based on a person’s sexual orientation and discrimination against those who chose not to marry for personal reasons.
Time for a change?
Following a huge campaign and a long journey through both the Courts and Parliament, regulations were approved by both Houses of Parliament on 5th November 2019, extending civil partnerships to opposite-sex couples. Such regulations are known as the Civil Partnership (Opposite-sex Couples) Regulations 2019.
The regulations are intended to commence on 2nd December 2019 but given there is a 28-day notice period, the date in which the first civil partnership can be registered is 31st December 2019.
What does this mean?
The Civil Partnership (Opposite-sex Couples) Regulations 2019 allows opposite-sex couples to register civil partnerships under the Laws of England and Wales. However, at present, only same-sex couples can convert their civil partnerships to marriage. This is pending the outcome of the Government’s consultation, which closed on 20th August 2019, on whether opposite-sex married couples should similarly have the opportunity to convert their relationship to a civil partnership. There is no point in making short-term changes until the outcome of the consultation is known, although it seems the next logical step.
It will be interesting to see how popular opposite-sex civil partnerships will be, but this is certainly a step in the right direction!
Krista Enziano is a Solicitor in the Family Department at O’Donnell Solicitors. For more information or a second opinion, please contact her on 01457 761320 or email firstname.lastname@example.org