With the news breaking this morning that Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan have won their claim at supreme court to open up civil partnerships to opposite-sex couples, Graham Coy, a Partner at the Stowe Family Law London office shares his thoughts on what may prove to be a landmark decision for family law in England and Wales.
“This morning the supreme court delivered a unanimous Judgment and agreed that a heterosexual couple were entitled to enter into a civil partnership.
Until now, civil partnerships have been restricted to same-sex couples.
Rebecca Steinfield and Charles Keidan are in a committed long-term relationship but for deeply held ideological reasons they did not want to marry but they did want to enter into a civil partnership.
Until today they had been prevented from doing so.
They commenced legal proceedings against the government maintaining that the refusal to allow them to enter into a civil partnership was a breach of their Human Rights, and was discriminatory and contravened their right to respect for private life.
The court made it clear that the government had not drawn a fair balance between the couple’s rights on the one hand and the interests of the community on the other.
The government had failed to explain satisfactorily why denying civil partnerships to heterosexual couples could be justified. The Judgment included a comment that there was no end in sight for the present inequality of treatment upon which the couple had suffered.
The government had created the inequality when same-sex couples were allowed to marry in 2013 and had wrongly prevaricated in doing anything about solving it.
The Judgment includes a Declaration that the status of the law is incompatible with the Human Rights Act.
This does not mean that the government or parliament are obliged to act. It is a very significant indication that politicians need to look urgently at the current state of the law which discriminates against heterosexual couples.”