The Civil Partnership Act 2004, which only applies to same-sex couples, is incompatible with the European Convention of Human Rights, ruled the UK Supreme Court in a unanimous decision.
Under the 2004 Act, a same-sex couple who enter into a Civil Partnership is entitled to the same legal treatment in terms of inheritance, tax, pensions and next-of-kin arrangements as marriage. In 2014, same-sex marriage was introduced in Scotland, England and Wales. This means that same-sex couples now have the option of choosing whether to marry or enter into Civil Partnership.
The couple involved believe this has resulted in inequality for heterosexual couples, who cannot enter into a Civil Partnership. They told the Court that they wanted to raise their children as equal partners and that they “feel that a Civil Partnership – a modern, symmetrical institution – sets the best example for them.”
The five Supreme Court justices unanimously upheld the couple’s Appeal, their legal challenge having earlier failed at the High Court.
So what will happen now?
The judgment does not oblige the government to change the law, however the Court has declared that the current law is incompatible with our human rights. This makes it very likely the government will now act, although whether they choose to act with urgency to extend Civil Partnerships to all remains to be seen.