What is the fuss about civil partnership for heterosexual couples?
The Court of Appeal yesterday rejected the application by Rebecca Steinfeld, 35, and Charles Keidan, 40, who want to be able to have a civil partnership, which is currently only available to same sex couples. They could marry, but reject “traditional” marriage on the grounds that it is a “sexist” and “patriarchal” institution. They want everything that marriage offers in legal terms, but they want it presented in a different form.
Civil partnership is not available to same sex couples to give them more choices than others, it was introduced to give them the opportunity to form legally recognised relationships, with the legal rights and benefits of marriage, at a time when Parliament was not prepared to allow them to marry.
Time has moved on, same sex couples can now marry, but it wasn’t considered necessary to do away with the right to civil partnership at the same time, so at present both options are available to them. Had Parliament allowed same sex marriage initially, this case would not have arisen.
What is the difference? In law, so little that you need a legal microscope to draw a distinction. There may be a disadvantage in that civil partners cannot call themselves “married”, and some countries don’t recognise civil partnerships (or indeed, same sex marriage), so civil partners might find themselves treated differently to their married counterparts.
Otherwise the issue seems to be only about marriage being seen as having the wrong image to some people. Is that simply complaining about the wrapping when the contents are identical? Do we need two different labels on the same package of rights?
The issue is still under consideration by Parliament, one reason why the Court of Appeal declined to consider changing the law, so time will tell how this issue resolves itself.