K J Smith Solicitors

Couple challenge ban on civil partnerships for members of the opposite sex

Published: 9 December 2014

A heterosexual couple have launched a judicial review on their local council of Kensington and Chelsea after being refused the chance to hold a civil partnership ceremony.

The couple, who are soon to become parents for the first time, would prefer a civil partnership as they reject the idea of traditional marriage, due to its patriarchal nature and that it contains 'sexual trappings' in a union where women were 'exploited for their domestic and sexual services' for years.

The 2004 Civil Partnership Act states that only same-sex couples are allowed to enter into a civil partnership, making heterosexual couples ineligible for civil partnership status. However, the couple think that this is unfair and have challenged the courts to make civil partnerships available for everyone.

The couple feel that strongly about civil partnership equality that they have tried to attract crowd funding to pay for their legal representation as well as an open petition for change, addressed to Equalities Minister Nicky Morgan to open up civil partnerships so they are available to all couples, regardless of sexual orientation.

So far, they have currently raised £3,235 towards their target of £5,000 and have had 483 supporters sign their petition - with only 17 more needed to reach their target of 500 supporters.

In October, the couple tried to hold a ceremony at the registry office at Chelsea Town Hall, only to be turned away by the registrar. They say that although the registrar was sympathetic towards their situation, she was unwilling to carry out an act of civil disobedience for fear of her job.

Prime Minister David Cameron has already made his views on the matter quite clear. Francis Maude, a leading Tory traditionalist, called on the Prime Minister to grant civil partnership status to heterosexual couples - a call that was rejected because David Cameron wants to ‘promote marriage rather than weaken it'.

Arguably this stance means that same-sex couples now have an advantage legally over heterosexual couples as they are allowed two options; civil partnerships and same-sex marriage, compared to couples of the opposite sex, who have traditional marriage as their only option.

In other European countries, both same-sex and straight couples have the option of a civil partnership if they don't want to get married. In the Netherlands, the majority of civil partnerships are between heterosexual couples and if the UK adopted the Dutch approach, it is estimated that as many as 15% of heterosexual couples would seek a civil partnership if the option was available.

The story of the couples fight for heterosexual civil partnerships comes just days before the official start of the conversion of civil partnerships to same-sex marriages, which is due to take place on 10th December 2014. Same-sex couples that wish to convert their existing civil partnership to marriage will be able to choose either a simple registration or larger wedding ceremony that can be attended by family and friends.

K J Smith Solicitors have a team of family law specialists with years of experience in dealing with every aspect of family law. For more information or to arrange a free consultation, contact us on 01491 630000 (Henley on Thames), 020 7070 0330 (London), 0118 418 1000 (Reading), 01753 325000 (Windsor) or 01256 584000 (Basingstoke).


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