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Heterosexual couple appeal against civil partnership rule

A heterosexual couple will appeal against restrictions on civil partnerships in a legal appeal this week.

Londoners Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan tried to enter one in 2004 but were turned away. They were told that only same sex couples have this option. They sought to challenge this restriction in the High Court but were unsuccessful. If their appeal this week is rejected the couple has said they are prepared to take their case to the Supreme Court and, if necessary, the European Court of Human Rights.

Speaking to the Observer, Keidan claimed that a civil partnership was “a modern social contract that doesn’t have the associations of marriage but would give the protection that we and other cohabiting couples crave”. He said it would reflect who they are as a couple.

Keidan said that while he could understand that for many people “marriage is a very meaningful way to express their love … there are also many reasons why people don’t want to get married”. It should not be for the government to decide, he insisted, adding that it would be “a really straightforward thing … to extend civil partnerships to couples like us”.

Civil partnerships were originally introduced in 2004 as a compromise for LGBT activists who wanted marriage rights. However the coalition government’s approval of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act in 2013 has resulted in a legal imbalance. Gay couples who want their relationship to be officially recognised have a choice: marriage or civil partnership. By contrast, straight couples can only choose marriage.

This is the case throughout the British Isles except in Northern Ireland, where gay marriage is still not available, and on the Isle of Man. There, not only can same sex couples marry but heterosexual couples can enter civil partnerships. The first of these occurred earlier this month and a few days later, a straight couple from London travelled to the island to get one. Claire Beale and Martin Loat considered themselves “one of the millions of ‘happily unmarried’ couples in the UK”. Following their ceremony in Douglas, they told the BBC that the British government should “follow the Isle of Man’s lead and end discrimination against heterosexuals seeking civil partnerships”.

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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