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Expert opinion on the Supreme Court ruling on civil partnerships

EPA-Facundo Arrizabalaga

Dr Mike Thomas, Programme Leader of the MA in Social Work at Brunel, has published an analysis of the recent Supreme Court judgment on civil partnerships at The Conversation website.   This expert comment is drawn from his research with LGB couples about their experience of civil partnership and marriage in the UK, Canada and the United States.

The Supreme Court found that the current policy of restricting civil partnerships to same-sex couples only is a breach of the right to respect for private life and the prohibition of discrimination under the European Convention on Human Rights.  Civil partnerships were introduced in 2005 as a means of providing legal recognition for same-sex couples only.  Although same-sex couples have also been able to get married since 2014, the government has not extended civil partnerships to opposite-sex couples.  This matters because some straight couples want legal recognition but don't like the idea of getting married.   Also, cohabiting couples in the UK have very few legal rights, so opening up civil partnerships could provide them with new legal entitlements. 

This is an important judgment which corrects an unforeseen legal quirk whereby same-sex couples currently enjoy more legal rights than heterosexual couples.  As Dr Thomas commented, "The idea that straight couples would one day be clamouring for civil partnerships as an alternative to marriage was not on the policy radar at all – and instead, for once, heterosexuals have been campaigning for rights already granted to LGBTQ+ people."  

The UK Government will need to take action in response to the judgment and could allow opposite-sex couples to form civil partnerships, or get rid of civil partnerships altogether. 

Read Dr Thomas's analysis at The Conversation website.

Find out more about Brunel Social Work staff research and teaching interests here: Social Work

Image: EPA/Facundo Arrizabalaga