Isle of Man allows heterosexual couples to enter into civil partnerships

The Isle of Man has become the first place in the British Isles to allow opposite sex couples to enter into civil partnerships as an alternative to marriage. The island is a crown dependency separate from but closely tied to the UK so some now feel there will be pressure to change the law in England and Wales as well. This new law also creates a legal grey area as there is now uncertainty as to whether these new civil partnerships for heterosexual couples will be recognised.

Whilst those on the island believe the new civil partnerships are likely to be classed as a marriage within the law in England and Wales, the Ministry of Justice said it would be a matter for the courts to resolve in a future test case. Some lawyers are saying they might not be recognised at all. The relevant law in England and Wales clearly states that both parties have to be of the same sex at the time the civil partnership is registered. As the courts cannot change the statue it will be down to parliament to do so.

Civil partnerships were originally created in order to allow same sex couples to legally formalise their relationship as they were not allowed to marry. Earlier this year same sex couples were given the right to marry in England and Wales and a call was made by some to allow civil partnerships to be extended to heterosexual couples. Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan, both academics from London, are preparing to go to the Court of Appeal in November to challenge the current law which they argue discriminates against them as a heterosexual couple. They lost their first hearing in January but have elected to take the matter further and many will eagerly await the outcome.

Amanda Erskine is a solicitor in the Family department at Barker Gotelee Solicitors.

Ipswich Family Solicitors – for more information on our range of legal services, please call the team on 01473 611211 or email