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A Durham-Cambridge Family Law Conference

10 and 11 July 2015

University of Cambridge Durham University

Session One: Registered Partnerships as a Functional Equivalent to Marriage

This panel will analyse the approach taken to registered partnerships by the vanguard Nordic countries. Beginning with Denmark in 1989, the Nordic countries were amongst the first jurisdictions to create a formalised regime exclusively for same-sex couples. Although there were some regional variations as to the extent of the rights conferred upon registered partners, these regimes operated as a functional equivalent to marriage.

Session Two: Registered Partnerships as an Alternative to Marriage

This panel interrogates a different approach to registered partnerships. Rather than providing a functional equivalent to marriage, registered partnerships in jurisdictions such as the Netherlands and France were conceived as an alternative to marriage. However regional variations under this approach are quite pronounced. For example, the Dutch regime offers the same rights and duties to both opposite and same-sex couples whereas the French regime, known as the pacte civil de solidarité, offers lesser protections, particularly in relation to financial consequences and tax. This panel will explore the key features of these models alongside reasons behind their continued popularity amongst couples.

Session Three: The UK and Ireland - Civil Partnerships in a Time of Transition

The unusual approach taken to registered partnerships (known as civil partnerships) by these jurisdictions will be the key focus of this panel. England & Wales, Scotland and the Republic of Ireland provide for civil partnerships that are exclusively available to same sex-couples. If, as expected, Ireland legalises same-sex marriage in 2015, these countries will be the only jurisdictions in the world that offer a greater choice as to relationship form to same-sex couples than opposite-sex couples. This panel will question the justification for this differential treatment and also focus on recent Government consultations in England & Wales and Scotland alongside several legal challenges.

Session Four: Alternative Models for Registered Partnerships - Beyond Conjugality, Beyond Formality?

This panel will explore alternative models that offer distinctive and innovative approaches to registered partnerships. Belgium, for example, does not insist on conjugality for the purposes of relationship recognition and thus its regime, the cohabitation légale, enables any couple including siblings to register their cohabitation. Similarly, the numerous autonomous communities in Spain enable partnerships to be constituted both formally through registration and informally through a fixed period of cohabitation.

Session Five: Registered Partnerships, Discrimination and Human Rights

This panel analyses registered partnerships through the lens of human rights and their protection at the supranational level. It will explore human rights protections guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights and also the European Union. With particular reference to the position in Greece and the Grand Chamber decision of the Strasbourg Court in Valliantos v Greece, it will question whether denying opposite or same-sex couples access to registering a partnership can ever be justified.

Session Six: The Future of Registered Partnerships

The closing session will reflect on the findings of previous sessions and will explore the future development of registered partnerships in Europe.


If you have any queries, please do not hesitate to contact the conference organisers at

An application will be made for 8 accredited CPD hours.

Please note that this programme is subject to change.


This research project and conference are generously supported by

International Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers Queen Elizabeth Building Intersentia