A HETEROSEXUAL couple whose legal bid to enter into a civil partnership was rejected by the Court of Appeal last year have won their appeal in the Supreme Court.
Lawyers representing Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan argued that the Civil Partnership Act 2004, which is limited to same-sex couples, was incompatible with Article 14 in the European Convention on Human Rights, which states that everyone should be treated equally by law, regardless of sex or sexual orientation.
The case was dismissed by the Court of Appeal in February last year, but the couple were granted the right to appeal in the Supreme Court the following August.
The appeal, heard last month, was accepted in a ruling by five judges — Lady Hale, Lord Kerr, Lord Wilson, Lord Reed, and Lady Black — published on Wednesday morning. The ruling states that, since the Civil Partnership Act 2004 was not repealed when the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 was enacted, same-sex couples had a choice where heterosexual couples did not.
“Under the law as it currently stands, they can only gain access to the rights, responsibilities, benefits, and entitlements that marriage brings by getting married,” it states. “This circumstance, it is now agreed, brought about an inequality of treatment between same-sex and heterosexual couples.”
A summary of the ruling explains: “The interests of the community in denying civil partnerships to different-sex couples who do not wish to marry are unspecified, whereas the consequences of this denial for such couples may be far-reaching.
“A couple may, for example, suffer serious fiscal disadvantage if one of them dies before their relationship is formalised. There is no end-point in sight for the present inequality of treatment.”
The ruling suggests that the Government should have acted immediately on the adoption of the same-sex marriage legislation, either to abolish civil partnerships or to extend them to opposite-sex couples.
Ms Steinfeld and Mr Keidan, who have two children, have said that the “patriarchal” tradition of marriage was not an option for them. They explain on their campaign website: “For us, a civil partnership best reflects who we are, how we see our relationship and our role as parents — a partnership of equals. We want a civil partnership to cement our commitment and strengthen the security of our family unit.”
Ms Steinfeld said on Wednesday: “Today we are a step closer to opening civil partnerships to all, a measure that would be fair, popular, and good for families and children across the country. We are elated. But to get this far we have had to go toe-to-toe with the Government over four long years.”
A Private Member’s Bill tabled by Tim Loughton MP, which would allow opposite-sex couples to enter a civil partnership, passed its second reading in February.