The government has followed up on a Supreme Court ruling from the summer by confirming that civil partnerships for mixed-sex couples will be introduced in the near future.
On June 27th 2018, the Supreme Court ruled that allowing same-sex, but not mixed-sex couples to enter into civil partnerships was discriminatory and must be corrected as quickly as feasibly possible.
In response, on October 2nd 2018 the government published a press release confirming that opposite-sex civil partnerships will be introduced, giving mixed-gender couples the same rights as same-sex couples.
Prime minister Theresa May said: “This change in the law helps protect the interests of opposite-sex couples who want to commit, want to formalise their relationship but don’t necessarily want to get married.”
Equalities minister Penny Mordaunt added: “This is an important step forward for equality. There are all sorts of reasons why people may choose not to marry. By giving couples this option we hope to give them and their families more certainty and security.”
Why civil partnerships for mixed-sex couples?
Examples from same-sex civil partnerships already show the importance of making a legal union, such as Stuart Warburton-Smith, whose civil partner Richard died suddenly in 2013.
Mr Warburton-Smith told the BBC: “Richard and I were one of the first couples to sign a civil partnership in December 2005 … Having the law on my side – especially when it came to dealing with pension rights etc – was important.”
Some opposite-sex couples just don’t want to get married, but still want to make a legal commitment to one another – some reasons why include an objection to the religious connotations of marriage, as well as the old idea that marriage represents the ‘ownership’ of the wife by the husband.
But without an equivalent legal commitment, unmarried mixed-sex couples – even those who cohabit for many years and/or have children together – risk missing out on benefits including:
- Marriage income tax allowance.
- Inheritance tax relief.
- Automatic inheritance of the partner’s estate.
- Bereavement support payments.
- Benefits from the partner’s state pension contributions.
- Some ‘survivor benefits’ on many occupational pension schemes.
- Division of assets/property on relationship breakdown.
This last point is an important one, as civil partnerships for mixed-gender couples are by no means a ‘marriage light’ option, and ending a civil partnership can be as involved of a process as divorcing a married partner.
As with civil partnerships for same-sex couples, mediators will be adjusting to this new option for mixed-sex couples too as it becomes law in England – although as yet it is not clear when that will happen.