Court of Appeal rejects straight civil partnerships

Family Law|February 21st 2017

The Court of Appeal has rejected a straight couple’s bid to enter a civil partnership.

London couple Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan were unsuccessful when they tried to secure this right from the High Court last year and have vowed to take their case all the way to the Supreme Court.

They argued that the current restrictions on civil partnerships were “incompatible with equality law”. Their appeal was only rejected by the “narrowest of margins” according to the BBC. All three judges admitted the law represented “a potential violation of the [couple’s] human rights under Article 14” and Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. These prohibit discrimination and ensure the right to ‘respect for a family and private life’.

The main point of contention in this case was the government’s “wait and see” stance on the issue. They will only pursue a change in the law if the potential take up of civil partnerships warrants the effort. While Lady Justice Arden believed this approach was not good enough, Lord Justice Beatson and Lord Justice Briggs believed the government’s attitude was justified. So the appeal was ultimately dismissed on a 2-1 majority.

In January the second reading of a bill to expand civil partnerships to include heterosexual couples was adjourned until March. During the Parliamentary debate on the issue Conservative MP Tim Loughton cited Stowe Family Law founder Marilyn Stowe, who called the current system “discriminatory” in an article for Solicitors Journal.

Following the Court decision Ms Steinfeld said she was disappointed that they “lost on a technicality” as the government’s attitude to legislation turned out to be the deciding factor. Meanwhile Mr Keidan said the idea of extending civil partnerships was “fair, popular, good for families and children, and long overdue”.

Stowe Family Law Partner Graham Coy said the decision had left the couple “in a very difficult position”. They can either marry, which they do want to do, or they can “continue to live together in a relationship where neither of them has much, if any, legal protection”.

Coy explained that this ruling “highlights how the law is out of step with changes in society and public opinion and urgent reform is now needed”.

Read the full Court of Appeal ruling here.

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  1. TG says:

    Why on earth is the Respondent in this Appeal “The Secretary of State for EDUCATION”?

  2. Andrew says:

    I wondered that too.
    One commentator in the Law Society’s Gazette blog calls this litigation “narcissistic” and while that’s harsh I am not sure it is wrong. They want a non-patriarchal relationship? Fine, let them marry and have a non-patriarchal marriage.

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