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Heterosexual couple lose civil partnership challenge

Judge rules that the current state of legislation is not discriminatory as opposite-sex couples can enter into a marriage

29 January 2016

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A heterosexual couple who took a legal action to the High Court in a bid to be able to enter into a civil partnership have lost their case.

Charles Keidan, 39, and Rebecca Steinfield, 34 contested that the Civil Partnership Act 2004 is discriminatory on the grounds that a civil partnership is only available to homosexual couples, and not heterosexual couples.

Mrs Justice Andrew said as she delivered her judgment: 'Just as the UK was under no obligation to extend marriage to same-sex couples, it has never been under an obligation to extend civil partnership to heterosexual couples.'

Coincidently, today (Tuesday 29 January) also saw the second reading of a private members bill to have the Civil Partnership Act amended, so that the words 'of the same sex' can be removed, thus allowing heterosexual couples to form civil partnerships.

Mrs Justice Andrew acknowledged that this step is currently being taken in parliament and may well result in the freedom to form opposite-sex civil partnerships.

As a result, she added, because the option of marriage is open to heterosexual couples which provides the same legal rights as a civil partnership, their action must fail.

'The government's decision to wait and see serves the legitimate aim of avoiding the unnecessary disruption and the waste of time and money that plunging into a programme of legislative reform without waiting is likely to produce. Consequently, this claim for judicial review fails.'

'Opposite-sex couples are not disadvantaged by the hiatus, because they can achieve exactly the same recognition of their relationship and the same rights, benefits and protections by getting married, as they always could.

Although she dismissed the claim, Andrews gave the pair permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal as their case has 'wider importance'.

Keidan and Steinfield based their case on the fact that article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights states that national legislation must not discriminate on the grounds of sex.

Due to this technical point, many thought that they might be successful in their case.

'This is a surprising decision. The law at the moment clearly discriminates on the grounds of sexuality,' said Lauren Evans, a family lawyer at Kingsley Napley.

'Everyone, be they straight, gay or bisexual, should have the same freedom to choose how to define their relationship. Parliament needs to step in to correct this hangover from a government that was unwilling to go all the way first time around with the Civil Partnership Act.'

She added: 'Today, by coincidence or fate, the private member's bill designed to correct this inequality has its second reading in the House of Commons. It has cross-party support from MPs, as well as support from lawyers, academics and a petition with over 36,000 signatures. Steinfeld and Keidan's case has turned up the volume of this campaign.


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