A heterosexual couple has been unsuccessful in their attempts to take the Government to Court regarding the making of civil partnerships available for straight couples. 

Their argument has been that they do not wish to be married as they take the view that marriage has too many historical and out of date connotations for the roles that men and women play.

A civil partnership however is only available for persons of the same sex so they have claimed therefore that they are being discriminated against by not being permitted access to this form of legal status for their relationship.

Although they indicated intention to appeal, at this point, they have been unsuccessful in making their case.

The view of the Court is that they have not in reality been discriminated against because a form of legal relationship, i.e. marriage is available to them which contains all the necessary elements for status and protection also available in civil partnership.

The case does highlight the approach to civil partnerships generally. These were introduced by the Civil Partnership Act 2004 and at the time were regarded as something of a half way compromise for same sex couples who wanted to put their relationship on a legal footing but were not permitted to marry.

The reality is that same sex marriage is now permitted by law and it can be argued that in some way the civil partnership has become redundant and should be assigned to a foot note of history.

The Government has expressed reluctance to enter into the expense of extending civil partnerships to opposite sex couples and the status of civil partnership in general will become no longer available to anybody and will be phased out. It is interesting however that other statistics appear to indicate that there has been no rush to convert existing civil partnerships between same sex couples into marriages.

In this case, the objection to marriage rather than a civil partnership seems to be based on ideology; the Court has not taken the view that this is sufficient to demonstrate  genuine discrimination.

Ultimately, of course marriage is what you make of it. It does not matter what men and women did a century ago or even a decade ago. You can make your own rules.

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Paul Hunt

Paul Hunt , Senior Associate

As a senior solicitor Paul is responsible for cases involving divorce or separation, children, financial and property issues and domestic violence.

He is member of Resolution panel for private children law, ancillary relief and domestic violence. Paul is also trained in Collaborative Law.

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