A landmark case at The Supreme Court has unanimously allowed an appeal to establish that a heterosexual couple have the right to enter into a civil partnership.

Heterosexual couples are not currently allowed to enter into a civil partnership under the Civil Partnership Act 2004. However, same sex couples are able to enter into a Civil partnership which brings an inequality between the two types of relationship.

If parliament takes the appropriate action this case will modernise the law and remove an inequality. The court declared that Section 1 to 3 of the Civil Partnership Act is incompatible with Article 14 (the prohibition on discrimination) and Article 8 (the right to respect for private life) of the European Convention on Human Rights. Section 1 to 3 of the Civil Partnership Act only applies to same sex couples.

Heterosexual couples have full access to the rights, responsibilities, benefits and entitlements that marriage brings by getting married. Under the current law cohabiting heterosexual couples who choose not to marry would suffer serious financial disadvantage if one of them dies. This is an injustice which would be redressed if heterosexual couples could be allowed to formalise their relationships by registering a civil partnership.

Despite this case showing that there is incompatibility with Articles 14 and 8 this does not oblige the government or Parliament to do anything. Nevertheless, it is not something that the government should choose to ignore with the amount of press attention this case has attracted.

The couple have said that they have done this for the 33 million cohabiting couples in the UK, which is the second largest type of family in the UK after marriage and it’s a step in the right direction for other reforms regarding heterosexual couples who do not wish to marry.

Here at Maxwell Hodge we can advise couples of on a number of family matters including cohabitation rights.