The Prime Minister Theresa May has announced the Government’s intention to extend the right to enter into civil partnerships (currently available only to same-sex couples) to opposite-sex couples.
Mrs May told the Evening Standard on 2 October 2018: “As Home Secretary, I was proud to sponsor the legislation that created equal marriage. Now, by extending civil partnerships, we are making sure that all couples, be they same-sex or opposite-sex, are given the same choices in life.”
As we know, the Government was forced into taking this position by the dogged determination of Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan, the couple who challenged the original refusal of the Hammersmith registrar to allow them to have a civil partnership in court proceedings all the way up to the Supreme Court. This culminated in the Supreme Court Justices’ unanimous decision in June 2018 overturning the decisions of the High Court and Court of Appeal.
Rebecca and Charles have welcomed the Prime Minister’s statement whilst calling on the Government to give a firm date for the extension of civil partnerships to opposite-sex couples.
As many family lawyers have pointed out, whilst this announcement is very welcome, unmarried partners who live together without either getting married or entering into civil partnerships have very few legal rights, in the event of the breakdown of their relationship or the death of one of the partners, in contrast to the legal position of married partners or those in civil partnerships. Legislative reform to provide legal protection to cohabitees is urgently needed and the need for legal protection for the more than 3 million cohabiting couples has so far been consistently ignored by the Government.