Heterosexual couples win right to civil partnerships after Supreme Court case

A heterosexual couple have won a Supreme Court case to allow them to have a civil partnership – paving the way for others to do the same.

Rebecca Steinfeld, 37, and Charles Keidan, 41, wanted a legal union through that route but were prevented because the Civil Partnership Act 2004 says only same-sex couples are eligible.

Five justices at the UK’s highest court in London today ruled that the ban on different sex couples entering into civil partnership under the Civil Partnership Act 2004 is "incompatible" with human rights laws.

Announcing the decision, Lord Kerr said the Government "does not seek to justify the difference in treatment between same sex and different sex couples".

He added: "To the contrary, it accepts that the difference cannot be justified".

Lord Kerr said what was sought by the Government was "tolerance of the discrimination while it sorts out how to deal with it".

He concluded: "That cannot be characterised as a legitimate aim."

In the court’s written ruling, Lord Kerr said it was "salutary to recall that a declaration of incompatibility does not oblige the government or Parliament to anything".

Charles and Rebecca have expressed their relief and elation at this resounding victory in their four-year legal battle.

The said in a statement: “We have fought this battle not only on our own behalf but for 3.3 million unmarried couples in England and Wales.

"Many want legal recognition and financial protection, but cannot have it because they’re not married and because the choice of a civil partnership is not open to them.

"Today we’ve won in court, but the fight for civil partnerships doesn’t end here. It can and must go on unless and until civil partnerships are extended to all couples."

Rebecca and Charles, who are both academics and live in Hammersmith, suffered defeat in the Court of Appeal in February 2017 but were given the go-ahead last August for a Supreme Court Hearing.

The couple, who have two daughters aged two and nine months, claim the Government’s position is "incompatible with equality law".

During the hearing, their barrister Karon Monaghan QC told the court they have "deep-rooted and genuine ideological objections to marriage" and were "not alone" in their views.

She said matrimony was "historically heteronormative and patriarchal" and the couple’s objections were "not frivolous".

Ms Monaghan added: "These are important issues, no small matters, and they are serious for my clients because they cannot marry conformable with their conscience and that should weigh very heavily indeed."

The Court of Appeal agreed the couple had established a potential violation of Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which relates to discrimination, taken with Article 8, which refers to respect for private and family life.

But, by a majority of two to one, the judges said the interference was justified by the Government’s policy of "wait and evaluate".

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The Government said it was decided, after public consultations and debate in Parliament, not to extend civil partnerships to opposite-sex couples, abolish them or phase them out at that stage.

The aim was to see how extending marriage to same-sex couples impacted on civil partnerships before making a final decision which, if reversed in a few years’ time, would be disruptive, unnecessary and extremely expensive.

In a statement outside court ahead of the May hearing, Ms Steinfeld and Mr Keidan said the Government should "stop making excuses" and act now to allow civil partnerships for all.

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