The High Court will hear a straight couple’s challenge to the civil partnership law this week.
Over the next two days, Londoners Charles Keidan and Rebecca Steinfeld will argue for the institution to be made available to all and not just to those in same sex relationships.
They are expected to argue that keeping heterosexual couples from the opportunity to have a civil partnership violates the European Convention on Human Rights. Article 14 of the Convention declares that everyone should be treated equally under the law “without discrimination on any ground”.
The Civil Partnership Act was first introduced in 2005 by Tony Blair’s Labour government. It gave gay couples the opportunity to have their relationship legally recognised, as they could not yet marry in England and Wales.
Gay marriage was eventually introduced by the coalition government in 2013, but the civil partnership law remained in place. This meant that same sex couples could choose to either get married or enter a civil partnership. Straight people, however, did not have this choice.
Keidan and Steinfeld decided to challenge this law in late 2014. Both of them objected to the “sexist trappings” of marriage, but still wanted their relationship to be officially recognised. They said that a civil partnership would give them “almost identical legal rights and responsibilities as marriage, but without its historical baggage, gendered provisions and social expectations”.
Their bid for a review of the law followed their unsuccessful attempt to enter a civil partnership. At the time, they were turned away by the registrar because they were not a same sex couple.
The government is “barring us, and many thousands of opposite-sex couples like us, from the choice of forming a civil partnership” they later claimed.