The first opposite-sex civil partnership was celebrated in the
Isle of Man recently between Adeline Cosson and Kieran Hodgson.
They said they wanted to 'keep it simple' rather than have
a traditional wedding and that, although they do want to marry one
day, it is not what they want now. Whilst the Isle of Man is a
Crown Dependency, it is not part of the UK and has different laws.
It is the only place in the British Isles which allows and
recognises opposite-sex civil partnerships.
The right to enter into opposite-sex civil partnerships has been
a hot topic since the introduction of same-sex marriage in the UK
in 2014. Civil partnerships for same-sex couples were not abolished
when the right to marry was legalised, so whilst same-sex couples
can now choose to either marry or enter into a civil partnership,
opposite-sex couples do not have the choice.
When same-sex marriage was introduced there was a campaign for a
change in the law to allow heterosexual couples to enter in civil
partnerships. However, despite a 2012 Government consultation in
which 61% of about 200,000 respondents said civil partnerships
should be available to opposite-sex couples, the Government said
that a subsequent consultation led to no consensus and no change to
the law was made.
It is clear that there is an appetite for a change in the law
with many opposite-sex couples wanting to enter into civil
partnership rather than marrying, or at least have a choice. Many
feel they do not want to be labelled a 'wife' or
'husband' and feel that civil partnership reflects the
equality in their relationship. The strength of feeling is so
strong for some that one couple have sought a judicial review of
the Governments' decision and, whilst they lost in the High
Court, the Court of Appeal is expected to hear the case in
November. Another London based couple have been so determined to
enter into their own civil partnership that they travelled to the
Isle of Man last week to do so. This is despite the fact that their
union is unlikely to be recognised in the UK.
Whatever the reason for a couple wanting to enter into a civil
partnership rather than marry, from a legal perspective, there is
very little difference. A civil partnership carries the same rights
and responsibilities as marriage and therefore no additional rights
or responsibilities will be conferred on couples who chose to marry
rather than enter into a civil partnership, or vice versa if it
Ironically, perhaps the most significant difference between
marriage and civil partnership is one of the bases for dissolving
the union. Adultery cannot be the basis for the dissolution of a
civil partnership, whereas it can be the basis for divorce in
marriage (both opposite- and same-sex). If opposite-sex civil
partnerships were to become legal, a question remains as to whether
adultery should become a ground for dissolution of opposite-sex
partnerships and same-sex partnerships. Parliament would have to
consider this and in doing so it may also have the opportunity to
review divorce law generally. Many family law practitioners have
been advocating for years a 'no fault' based divorce law to
avoid couples having to apportion blame or wait a number of years
before divorcing. Resolution are proponents of this and intend
to lobby the Government later this year.
Whatever the future holds, be that the introduction of
opposite-sex civil partnership or a complete review of the divorce
laws, there are clearly many issues surrounding the formation and
dissolution of relationships that have still to be resolved.
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