The Court has ruled against a heterosexual couple seeking to enter into a Civil Partnership instead of a marriage.
Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan, appealed the decision of Mrs Justice Andrews DBE in the High Court, who held that the restrictions under the Civil Partnership Act 2004, preventing opposite-sex couples from entering into a civil partnership, were lawful.
The parties argued that, as a heterosexual couple, they did not have the same choice as a same-sex couples when choosing the route of legal recognition for their relationship, and that the lack of choice amounted to discrimination.
Although the Court of Appeal ruled against Ms Steinfeld and Mr Keidan, the Judges recognised that there was a potential breach of the parties’ human rights, but stated that this potential breach was justified to enable the government to have more time to decide on the future of civil partnerships.
With marriage only relatively recently becoming available to same sex couples the government have chosen to wait and see whether there is still a call for civil partnerships before extending the right to opposite sex couples. Further consultations will consider how many civil partners converted their partnership to marriage after the change in the law and how many new couples continue to opt for a civil partnership over a marriage.
Upon leaving court after the ruling Ms Steinfeld and Mr Keidan said that there was still “everything to fight for” and they intend to appeal to the Supreme Court.
The couple wish to enter into a civil partnership as they want legal recognition of their relationship “which is modern, which is symmetrical and that focuses on equality, which is exactly what a civil partnership is”.
An online petition calling for civil partnerships to be open to all has now received more than 72,000 signatures.
This decision will put pressure on the government to keep this issue under review. The argument that the discrimination is justified while we wait and see whether there is a still a call for civil partnerships will not be valid for long.
Despite the momentum behind Ms Steinfeld and Mr Keidan’s campaign, the number of civil partnerships a year has fallen significantly since same sex marriage became legal with many civil partners choosing to convert their partnership into a marriage since the change in the law.
In July 2016, The Isle of Man, became the only part of the United Kingdom where both same sex and opposite sex couples can enter into a civil partnership. Will it be long before the rest of the United Kingdom follows suit?