The Civil Partnership Act 2004 was introduced to provide for legal status of relationships between two members of the same sex. By giving legal status to same-sex relationships, the Act conferred rights and obligations similar to those available to married couples. In addition, on dissolution of the Partnership, the parties were entitled to make claims against one another in respect of income, capital, property and pensions, mirroring the S25 factors under the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973.
After much debate, in December 2014, the Marriage (Same Sex) Conversion Act 2013 enabled Civil Partnerships to be converted to marriage. In addition, as of 10 December 2014, same-sex couples are free to marry, making same-sex couples equal under the law insofar as it relates to marriage. This has led to some heterosexual couples arguing that they are now unequal because the law does not provide for heterosexual couples to enter into a Civil Partnership. The only legal status afforded to them is by marriage. They argue that they do not want to be married, because it is an outdated practice, and that by refusing to allow heterosexual couples to have a Civil Partnership, this is legal discrimination.
Human Rights Campaigner Peter Tatchell has accused David Cameron of betraying the principle of equality and says that “Same-sex couples now have a legal advantage over straight couples. They have two options: civil marriage and civil partnership. In contrast, opposite-sex couples have only one option: marriage. This is unjust and unfair.”
Clearly the purpose of the Civil Partnership Act 2004 – to provide for legal status for same-sex couples who were unable to marry - has been lost over time and as one debate ends, another begins!