Monday 2nd December 2019 marked the day from when male and female couples can enter into a civil partnership, as opposed to civil partnerships being restricted to only same-sex couples. Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan’s long-fought legal battle was successful, with the Supreme Court Judgement ruling in June 2018 that restricting civil partnerships to same sex couples amounts to an inequality of treatment, in breach of Article 14 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights, which prohibits discrimination.

This change, as a result of the Supreme Court decision, has been praised for successfully recognising that some heterosexual couples in society object to a traditional marriage yet should still be offered a legally recognised relationship status. The primary reasons for this objection are centred around marriage being a deeply patriarchal institution which is too heavily enshrined in religion, and a civil partnership overcomes this while offering a relationship status with the same legal protections. Entering either a civil partnership or marriage is considered a beneficial step for many couples who feel that a legally protected relationship status will reflect their desire to share a life together, such as those with children or who intend to start a family.

Although there are no requirements for weddings to be religious, with the Office of National Statistics recording that only 24% of weddings in 2016 were religious ceremonies, the institution of marriage itself is still felt by some to be a religious declaration which may not reflect their personal values or beliefs. The institution of marriage is seen by some as patriarchal because historically economic reasons or familial pressures have been identified as reasons for women to marry. Many marriage ceremonies typically involve traditions which are viewed by some as oppressive towards women, allowing women to be viewed as property, such as the tradition of the father giving his daughter away. Additionally, some people suggest they would prefer the term ‘civil partners’ to ‘husband and wife’ as they believe these marital titles are associated with traditional gender roles and do not align with their personal values or beliefs.

Civil partnership is largely equivalent to marriage in terms of its legal and financial benefits. For example, the same tax benefits, pension perks, and property provisions are found under a civil partnership just as they are with marriage. It is also possible to prepare a pre-civil partnership agreement which has the same effect as a pre-nuptial agreement. If a civil partnership unfortunately breaks down, then the process to dissolve such a relationship is almost identical to the divorce process.

Many cohabiting couples who do not wish to marry may wish to consider the protection afford by a civil partnership. At the moment, cohabitees have limited financial rights on separation, largely based upon contributions made towards mortgage payments and substantial improvements to property.

If you are interested in seeking comprehensive legal advice on all aspects of civil partnerships or marriage then consult Myerson’s expert team of family law solicitors on 0161 941 4000 or reach us by email at