My colleague, Nicola Kerr blogged previously on the decision of the Supreme Court in the case of R (on the application of Steinfeld and Keidan) (Appellants) v Secretary of State for International Development (in substitution for the Home Secretary and Education Secretary) (Respondent) in which the court made a declaration that the Civil Partnership Act 2004 was incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights insofar as it does not permit opposite sex couples to enter into a civil partnership.
The Scottish Government is now inviting written responses to a public consultation on the future of civil partnerships in Scotland. The responses received from the public consultation will inform the Scottish Government’s approach as to whether legislation is necessary in Scotland. The consultation paper sets out two options for amendment of the law to remove the perceived current discrimination. The first option is for the closure of civil partnerships for new relationships from a set date in the future, which is referred to as “the repeal option.” The second option is for the extension of civil partnerships to include opposite sex couples, which is referred to as “the extension option.”
The impetus for the Appellants (Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keiden) pursuing their case all the way to the Supreme Court was their desire to enter a civil partnership and have the financial and legal protection it brings without having to, in their view, conform to societal expectations by entering a marriage. The suggestion that civil partnerships could be scrapped is an outcome that Miss Steinfeld and Mr Keiden may not have anticipated. In view of the UK Government’s recent announcement that it would propose to extend civil partnerships in England and Wales to include opposite sex couples, it seems likely though that Scotland will follow suit.
I would encourage you to share your views in the consultation process. We will watch with interest how the legislative changes develop.