Today, in a landmark announcement, Prime Minister Theresa May has announced plans to give every couple in England and Wales the choice to join together in civil partnerships, according to the BBC. Previously, civil partnerships have only been available to same-sex couples, prompting anger from people in other relationships who wanted the security of an official union without the need to enter into the institution of marriage.

What is the need for this new legislation?

Mixed-sex couples have long been asking for the right to civil partnerships. For many, there is a reluctance to get married because they feel that this historic tradition imposes certain gender roles on married couples and promotes unequal relationships.

Especially within the younger generation, people are beginning to question whether they believe in marriage as an institution, especially considering the way it has treated women in the past. A new consensus that civil partnerships are more compatible with the modern times in which we live is being increasingly agreed upon, particularly in the case of younger couples.

The Supreme Court ruled in favour of a couple in June who had campaigned to be allowed access to a civil partnership. Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan won their case, as the Supreme Court judged that the inequality in UK law was in contravention with the European Convention on Human Rights.

Theresa May stated that she felt a need to announce the plans for this new legislation now, in order to address the 'imbalance' in the law which, at the moment, is treating mixed-sex and same-sex couples differently.

However, some political commentators have expressed the view that Mrs May decided to make the announcement today to distract public attention from the rocky Conservative Party Conference at which today Boris Johnson made his alternative Brexit speech.

What exactly are civil partnerships?

Civil partnerships are unions which were introduced in 2004 as an option exclusively for same-sex couples who were not allowed to marry at the time (same-sex marriage is still illegal in Northern Ireland).

This legislation gives couples similar rights and protections under the law as marriage does, meaning that couples opting for this choice will receive much of the same security married couples receive.

Civil partnerships do not necessitate couples to have to undergo a ceremony or exchange vows unless they wish to do so. The union is simply enshrined in law by the signing of a document.

The exact legislation which will place the right of mixed-sex couples to civil partnerships into UK law is yet to be written up. Government officials will have to consider a range of issues, including 'pension and family law' to make the institution equal to all couples.