Supreme Court ruling on civil partnerships for heterosexual couples

By Lenore Rice

The Supreme Court has unanimously ruled that the Civil Partnership Act 2004, which is only applicable to same-sex couples, is not compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.

Rebecca Steinfield and Charles Keidan launched a legal bid for their right to have a civil partnership instead of a marriage, which they said was not an option they wanted to take because of the "legacy of marriage", and the way which it "treated women as property for centuries". A civil partnership carried the same legal implications as marriage in terms of inheritance, tax, pensions and other matters, but is only available to same-sex couples.

The case went through the court system, and the Court of Appeal rejected the couple's claim in February 2017. The case was appealed to the Supreme Court who held that the restriction of access to civil partnerships for same-sex couples only was an inequality that amounted to discrimination and a breach of the right to a family life.

The government is being called on to respond to the ruling by making civil partnerships available to all couples. Lord Kerr said that the government had accepted that the difference in treatment between same-sex and different sex couples was not justified, but seeks "tolerance of the discrimination while it sorts out how to deal with it."

If you require legal advice in respect of a family law matter contact one of the matrimonial solicitors at Wilson Nesbitt in Belfast or Bangor by clicking here.