(CNN)UK Prime Minister Theresa May has announced that heterosexual couples in England and Wales will be able to enter into civil partnerships instead of getting married, previously only same-sex couples had that choice.
Heterosexual couples in England and Wales to be allowed civil partnerships
"This change in the law helps protect the interests of opposite-sex couples who want to commit, want to formalize their relationship but don't necessarily want to get married," May said in an interview with the London Evening Standard.
"As home secretary, I was proud to sponsor the legislation that created equal marriage. Now, by extending civil partnerships, we are making sure that all couples, be they same-sex or opposite-sex, are given the same choices in life."
Civil partnerships were introduced in 2004 under the Labour government of Tony Blair to enable gay people to marry in all but name. In 2014, the coalition government led by Conservative David Cameron updated the law to allow equal marriage rights for same-sex couples.
Earlier this year, a heterosexual couple who objected to the "patriarchal" institution of marriage won a legal claim for discrimination because civil partnerships were available only to same-sex couples.
The UK Supreme Court ruled in favor of the couple, Charles Keidan, 41, and Rebecca Steinfeld, 37, who argued the law on civil partnerships was incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.
May's Conservative Party is currently holding its annual conference in Birmingham. The editor of the Evening Standard, George Osborne, was chancellor of the Exchequer during Cameron's government.