This week civil partnerships were extended to opposite-sex couples, having only legally been available to same-sex couples previously. Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan won a court battle for the right to have a civil partnership instead of a marriage, because marriage in itself was a tradition that has “treated women as property for centuries”.
So what exactly is a civil partnership, and is it essentially the same as marriage? There are many similarities between the two forms of union, the biggest being that it is a legally recognised bond between two people. Those in a civil partnership are free to receive financial and legal aid in case of separation, in a similar manner to how a divorce is dealt with. The biggest difference, which many people may prefer, is that a civil partnership has no religious connotations whatsoever. There is no necessity to exchange vows and there is no church ceremony, or religious oversight by a priest.
After same-sex marriage became legal in England and Wales 2014, the Office for National Statistics recorded that between 10th December 2014 and 30th June 2015, a total of 7,732 couples had converted their civil partnership to marriage. Since 2014, there has been a 70% drop in the number of civil partnerships for same-sex couples. However, there are few who still choose to have a civil partnership even with the legalisation of same-sex marriage.
The appeal of a civil partnership is a freedom of religious connotations and a disregard of patriarchal structure at home and a formal union without the constraints involved with cost-heavy ceremonies and parties. It’s a modern appeal, but one that is a step towards true equality. According to the BBC, LGBT and human rights activist Peter Tatchell claimed that it was “unfair that same-sex couples had two options…whereas opposite-sex couples only had one,”.
It’s a modern idea, however with the growth of activism, and the increase in popular demand, we may see that the government plans to change the law and make civil partnerships available for all without being discriminated by gender. It is an all too familiar case of fighting for equality, but as we saw what many thought to be impossible come to fruition in March 2014, when same-sex marriage became legal, this court ruling may just be the push that the government needs to deliver upon equal rights.