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Civil partnership: a victory and a consultation

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Supreme Court, ruling, civil partnerships, heterosexual couples, Scottish government, consultationScottish government launches consultation on civil partnerships for heterosexual couples.

Theresa May recently announced that civil partnerships will be available to all couples in England and Wales, not just same-sex couples.

Civil partnerships were originally created in 2004, and offered homosexual couples legal and financial benefits resembling those available under a marriage. Marriage for same-sex couples was subsequently legalised by the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013, meaning they could choose which to do.

The proposed change comes in response to R (on the application of Steinfeld and Keidan) (Appellants) v Secretary of State for International Development, which was decided by the Supreme Court in June.

There, the court ruled that precluding mixed-sex couples from entering into a civil partnership was incompatible with Article 14 ECHR (when read in conjunction with Article 8) as civil partnership is open to same sex couples only whereas marriage is open to both opposite sex couples and same sex couples.

The Civil Partnership Act 2004 will, therefore, need to be amended or replaced.

The move, the government said, will address the “imbalance” of the current system.

It will also provide a way of giving couples and their families greater security.

Concerns had previously been raised about the precarious legal state of couples cohabiting, as many of whom – incorrectly – believe they possess similar rights to married couples. Widening access to civil partnerships may go some way to resolving this.

The appellants, Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan campaigned for the right to a civil partnership for four years, and more than 130,000 people signed an online petition in support of civil partnerships for everyone.

Steinfeld and Keidan had described civil partnership as a “modern, symmetrical institution” which was free of the historical and gender-role connotations of marriage.

It now seems likely that a similar change could be made in Scotland.

The Scottish government has launched a consultation on whether heterosexual couples ought to be able to enter into civil partnerships.

The Scottish government’s consultation on the future of civil partnership outlines two options.

The first would be to make provision laying down that no new civil partnerships could be entered into in Scotland from a date in the future. Existing civil partners could remain in their civil partnership if they wish and would continue to enjoy the same rights and responsibilities as they do now.

The second would be the introduction of an opposite-sex civil partnership. An opposite-sex civil partnership would be along the same lines as same-sex civil partnership.

If you want to respond to this consultation online click here.

You don’t have to answer it all at once, you don’t have to answer all the questions, and you can save and return to your responses while the consultation is still open.

Responses submitted by email will not be accepted.

Your response needs to be submitted by 21 December 2018.

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