The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 allows same sex couples to marry. Prior to this Act the only alternative to marriage for same sex couples was to form a Civil Partnership.
The law at present allows same sex couples the option of either a Civil Partnership or a Marriage. The same cannot be said for couples of the opposite sex, who only have one option; to marry or not to marry.
Recent data from the Office for National Statistics has shown an increase in cohabiting opposite sex couples and has confirmed this group to be the fastest growing family type in the UK. Whether this is due to couples not wanting to get married, or perhaps somehow never getting round to it, their options appear to be more limited in comparison to same sex couples.
The financial rights that are afforded to civil partners are the same as those afforded to married couples. Some people may ask why would you want to be civil partners when you could be married? The answer seems simple – the right to choose.
This situation has been raised in a Bill before Parliament and we await the response to proposals that any couple should be able to enter into a Civil Partnership, regardless of whether they are same sex or opposite sex.
For many the institution of marriage is something that offers comfort and inclusion, along with the traditional approach that society has adopted for couples looking to affirm their commitment and relationship status.
For some however marriage is not appealing. Whether that is due to experiences they have encountered in the past, or simply their personal view on the institution generally, for couples who seek a specific status in their relationship but do not wish to marry, at present there is only one option for opposite sex couples and that is to live together.
The law surrounding the rights of cohabiting couples is complex, unsatisfactory and in need of change. A couple can be living together for years and have children together without any legal protection. If they separate, one party could therefore be significantly disadvantaged.