Opposite-Sex Civil Partnerships

The 31st December 2019 marked the first day that opposite-sex couples could form civil partnerships. The Civil Partnership (Opposite-Sex Couples) Regulations 2019 changed the definition of civil partnership provided in section 1(1) of the Civil Partnership Act 2004, so as to remove the words “of the same sex”.

Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan began their campaign to change the law (in the form of a Judicial Review), and allow them to enter into a civil partnership back in 2014, when they were told that they could not be civil partners because they were of the opposite sex.

They were one of many others who formed their civil partnership on 31 December 2019. Speaking outside of Chelsea Town Hall, they said that their desire to enter into a civil partnership had been “rooted in [their] desire to formalise [their] relationship in a more modern way, focussed on equality and mutual respect”.

So, what are the differences between marriages and civil partnerships?

  • Marriages are solemnised by saying a prescribed form of words. Civil partnerships do not require any words to be spoken by the parties and are instead registered by the signing of the civil partnership document.


  • Marriages can be conducted through a religious or civil ceremony. Civil partnerships are formed only by a civil event. However, civil partners can choose to have a religious ceremony following the formation of the civil partnership, but this does not form part of the formation.


  • Marriages are registered on a hard copy register where as civil partnerships are recorded electronically.


  • Civil partnership certificates include the names of the farther and mother (or step-father/step-mother) of each of the parties, where as marriage certificates only record the name of the father (or step-father).


  • Marriages are ended by divorce proceedings and obtaining the decree absolute. Civil partnerships are ended by a dissolution order.

For more information on all of the similarities and differences between same-sex and opposite-sex marriages and civil partnerships, the Government have produced a helpful table which can be accessed using the following link: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/851152/Marriage_and_Civil_Partnership_in_England_and_Wales.pdf.

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