Equality for all? Not just yet
The face of family law fundamentally changed in 2005 when the Civil Partnership Act came into force. This allowed same sex couples to enter into a Civil Partnership and obtain legal recognition of their relationship in the same way married couples do.
In March 2014 same sex couples were also given the option of entering into a civil marriage with a number of those having already entered into Civil Partnership converting this into a marriage.
However, whilst same sex couples now have the option of either entering into a Civil Partnership or a Civil Marriage, this choice is not afforded to opposite sex couples.
If opposite sex couples wish to formalise their relationship and for this to be legally recognised in England and Wales, currently the only way for this to happen is for them to get married.
This issue was recently challenged by an opposite sex couple, Miss Rebecca Steinfield and Mr Charles Keidan when they went before the Court of Appeal to challenge a ruling that they could not enter into a Civil Partnership as they did not meet the legal requirement of being the same sex.
Miss Steinfiled and Mr Keidan argued that this was a breach of their human rights and they should be free to have their relationship legally recorded in the manner that they felt best suited their personal circumstances.
Although the application was rejected by the Court of Appeal it was only defeated by a narrow margin as all of the Judges accepted that the current situation was a potential breach of the parties’ human rights and the prohibition of opposite sex couples entering into a Civil partnership is discriminatory. It is also worth noting that the appeal was seemingly not allowed as the Judges felt the Government should be allowed more time to consider the possibility of changing the current legislation as opposed to simply having such a change imposed on it.
Therefore, this issue remains an active one and it remains to be seen if there will be a change in the law in the future which will allow opposite set couples to enter into a Civil Partnership should they wish to instead of getting married.