Mark Harrop comments on Court of Appeal judgment on Civil Partnerships

22 Feb 2017

Following yesterday's Court of Appeal judgment on the legality of opposite-sex civil partnerships, Mark Harrop has made the following comments: 

“The rights and legal protections that come with a civil partnership are identical to marriage. The couple in this case wished to benefit from those rights but object to the name “marriage”, with its religious and patriarchal associations.

It is clear that same-sex and opposite-sex couples are being treated differently. But it is hard not to dismiss this as a first world problem. The only thing stopping this couple getting the rights they desire is their own sense that “marriage” implies an unequal relationship and “civil partnership” does not.

In reality, there are far more pressing issues when it comes to the rights of cohabiting couples. Many people still do not realise there is no such thing as a “common law marriage”. Often it is only when they separate or their partner dies that they discover that they have very few, if any, legal entitlements.

As long ago as 2007 the Law Commission proposed the introduction of automatic rights for unmarried cohabiting couples. Others have suggested a form of registered partnership with fewer financial implications than marriage. Either one of these would provide real, practical benefits to far more of the millions of cohabiting couples living in Britain today than introducing opposite-sex civil partnerships.”