Many people will have welcomed the Government’s decision to introduce legislation permitting different (or mixed) sex couples to enter into civil partnership agreements, even though the precise extent of the proposed legislation is not yet known. After all, as a matter of human rights, why should people of the opposite sex be excluded from entering into a civil partnership agreement when same sex couples can do so?
The Government’s decision follows on from the Supreme Court decision in the case brought by Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan. The issue in that case had been whether the bar on different-sex couples entering into civil partnerships breached the appellant’s rights under article 14 – (the prohibition on discrimination) together with article 8 (the right to respect for family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The Supreme Court unanimously decided in June that sections 1 and 3 of the Civil Partnership Act 2004 (to the extent that they precluded a different sex couple from entering into a civil partnership) were incompatible with article 14 of ECHR taken in conjunction with article 8.
This well publicised decision really left the Government with no alternative but to seek to address the issue. It could no longer argue that further research was needed into societal attitudes on the subject.
However, various questions do arise not least: