Heterosexual Civil Partnerships, the Legal Bid for Equal Love

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The arguably anomalous situation of the rights of unmarried heterosexual couples markedly being different to those of married or same sex couples was highlighted recently in the High Court. A crowdfunded application was made by two academics, Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan, who wanted to enter into a civil partnership and took the matter to the High Court as they felt they were being discriminated against as they were not same sex partners. The couple in question had been in a committed relationship since November 2010 and have a young, less than twelve month old baby.

The application to the High Court was dismissed by the Judge, Mrs Justice Andrews, but she gave them permission to take their case on to the Court of Appeal because in her view the application raised issues of “wider importance”. There has been for many years the myth of the “common law marriage” which this case fragments as it illustrates the fact that unmarried heterosexual couples remain to have markedly different rights to married ones with different legislation applying, for example, to disputes as to property rights on separation.

Many commentators have expressed views both now and in the past that this anomaly should be rectified, but up until now Parliament and whichever government has been in power has shown little appetite for changing a law, possibly because such a change would be neither headline grabbing nor vote catching. However the debate continues that like same-sex couples, there are many heterosexual couples that do not wish to marry but feel that civil partnerships better reflect their relationships and values.

For legal advice on civil partnerships or any other family law matter please contact us or call 01453 832566.


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