As the world prepares to welcome in a new decade, hundreds of mixed-sex couples will make history by becoming the first to celebrate civil partnerships in England and Wales.
On 31 December, new legislation makes it legal for mixed-sex couples to enter into civil partnerships – an option that was previously only available to same-sex couples, brought in before gay marriage was legalised, then left unchanged.
Civil partnerships afford couples the same financial and legal protections as marriage, but offer an alternative for those who feel ‘traditional’ marriage isn’t quite right for them.
Among the couples celebrating today will be Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan, whose public battle for a civil partnership made it to the Supreme Court.
The couple said that for them, a civil partnership felt more equal than a traditional marriage. They successfully argued that denying a straight couple the right to a civil partnership was discrimination and therefore “incompatible with their human rights”.
The pair, who have two children, are due to sign their civil partnership registration at Kensington and Chelsea Register Office at 10.30am.
Ahead of their big day, Steinfeld told HuffPost UK she’s looking forward to getting “hitched like a feminist [...] within a modern social institution without the patriarchal baggage of marriage”.
“Descriptors are hugely important. It matters that same-sex couples can marry – something we campaigned for within our community,” she said. “But it also matters that feminists like me, in mixed-sex relationships, can, through civil partnerships, formalise a relationship of equals, and avoid labels like ‘wife’, together with all the gendered expectations that come with them.”
Keidan added that for him, entering a civil partnership is “the perfect expression of our values and relationship – of love for one another and an aspiration to be a partnership of equals.”
“Of course, we don’t always live up to that aspiration but it sets a tone for our relationship and our responsibility as parents,” he said. “For us, a civil partnership is a blank slate upon which we can inscribe our own hopes and dreams. There is no social script, no fixed expectations imposed by others, no huge expense and minimal fanfare.”
He added that he’s happy to be avoiding the expectations from others that sometimes coincide with weddings, “about wearing certain clothes, exchanging vows and rings, throwing an expensive party or signing a certificate or being part of an institution which still excludes mothers’ names”.
Ahead of 31 December, hundreds of mixed-sex couples gave notice to enter civil partnerships. We wish them all a very happy new year and beyond.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost.