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Civil partnership case won by heterosexual couple

Read time: 2 mins 26 secs

Alice Sanderson, July 03, 2018

Following a landmark case, the Supreme Court have unanimously ruled that a heterosexual couple should be allowed to have a civil partnership instead of a marriage.

The court called the current law, which under the Civil Partnership Act 2004 means that only same-sex couples can have a civil partnership, “incompatible” with human rights laws regarding discrimination and the right to a private and family life.

Under the Civil Partnership Act 2004 only same-sex couples can currently have a civil partnership.

Discriminatory

The couple who brought the case to the Supreme Court, Rebecca Steinfeld, 37, and Charles Keidan, 41, have been together since 2010 and have two children. Their reason for pushing for a change in the law, and the right to have a civil partnership, is their belief that the “legacy of marriage” has “treated women as property for centuries”.

They argued that marriage does not set the best example to their children, saying: “We want to raise our children as equal partners and feel that a civil partnership – a modern, symmetrical institution - sets the best example for them”.

The couple said that the law as it stands is discriminatory. Whilst same-sex couples can choose between marriage and entering into a civil partnership, the same option is not available for mixed-sex couples - who can only marry.

The couple had previously had their claim rejected by the Court of Appeal, but this latest ruling by the Supreme Court overrules that.

Ms Steinfeld told the BBC outside the court: “We are feeling elated, but at the same time we are feeling frustrated the government has wasted taxpayers’ money in fighting what the judges have called a blatant inequality.”

She added that she hopes the government will now extend civil partnerships to all.

The ruling holds no obligation for the government to change the law, but Ms Steinfeld called it ‘the right thing’ to do, and it is likely the government will now act following the judgment.

What’s the difference?

Marriage has been around for centuries but civil partnerships are a relatively new option. Since 2004, same-sex couples have been permitted to unite under a civil partnership.

In 2013, the UK government also gave same-sex couples the right to get married, but they did not extend both options to mixed-sex couples.

Civil partnerships offer the same legal and financial protections of a marriage, such as inheritance, tax, next-of-kin arrangements and pensions.

However, unlike marriage, it does not have any religious connotations.

In addition, some, such as the couple in question, object to marriage due to its associations with patriarchy and property.

First4Lawyers comment

Spokesperson for First4Lawyers, Andrew Cullwick, says: "We welcome the option for all couples, regardless of their sexuality, being able to choose between marriage and civil partnerships. As the Supreme Court said the law as it stands discriminates against mixed-sex couples. We hope that this ruling encourages the government to change the law and help all couples have the option on how to legally unite."