Theresa May has announced today that all couples in England and Wales will be able to chose to enter a civil partnership rather than to get married, under proposed changes to our current legislation.
Same sex couples have been able to enter into civil partnerships since 2004, and then same-sex marriage was legalised in 2013. Mixed sex couples have never been able to enter into a civil partnership. Mrs May's announcement today will change this.
This issue has had great media interest since Ms Steinfield and Mr Keidan started campaigning for law change 4 years ago. The campaign centred on the ability for all couples to be able to elect how they wished their relationship to be legalised, and the way it would thereafter be defined, "Marriage" often not being a preferred definition for moral, historic or personal reasons.
The reports today in the press suggest that this law change may assist with the ever increasing number of cohabitants living without legal protection, but in my experience this law change will not alter their choices or rights. Often cohabitants are cohabitants because one, or both, do not wish to formalise their relationship. Calling this a Civil Partnership rather than a marriage is unlikely to change that. This issue has been debated for many years, and providing cohabitants with legal rights is a very different issue.
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Many of them believe they are in a so-called common law marriage and possess similar rights and protections to those enjoyed by married couples and civil partners - but they don't. It can cause enormous distress when co-habiting partners find out - often on separation or the death of their partner - that they have far fewer inheritance, property and pension rights than they had thought. Becoming civil partners means couples will get these benefits without having to get married.