A heterosexual couple have won the right to have a civil partnership instead of a marriage, believing it sets the best example for their children.
Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan, who met in 2010 and have two children together, appealed for the right to have a civil partnership, saying that the “legacy of marriage” which “treated women as property for centuries” was not the right choice for them, and preferring a civil partnership because they want to raise their children as equal partners and believe the “modern, symmetrical institution” of a civil partnership will set the best example for them.
Civil partnerships, along with marriage, have been a choice available to same-sex couples since 2014 but have not been an option for heterosexual couples, which led Ms Steinfeld and Mr Keidan to argue that the law was discriminatory. After the couple’s initial claim, made in February 2017, was rejected, the couple appealed the ruling. The Supreme Court ruled unanimously in favour of Mr Steinfeld and Mr Keidan, stating that the Civil Partnership Act 2004, which applies just to same-sex couples, is not compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.
Like marriage, a civil partnerships entitles a couple to the same legal treatment regarding inheritance, tax, pensions and next-of-kin arrangements. However it is free of the religious connotations of marriage and does not hold the same associations with property and patriarchy as some believe marriage implies.
As a result of the ruling, campaigners have urged the government to “seize this opportunity” and allow all people to have the option of a civil partnership. The judgment does not oblige the government to change the law but could make it more likely that the government will now act.
Paul Cobb, a collaborative & family law solicitor at Rothera Sharp says: “With gay couples having the option to either be in a civil partnership or marry, it is only right that heterosexuals have the choice to either marry or be in a civil partnership. The government needs to recognise the rights of individuals to choose how they structure their family and the realities of family life in the 21st century.”