Will Civil Partnerships be extended to Heterosexual Couples?
Heterosexual couple Rebecca Steinfeld, 37, and Charles Keidan, 31 from London have won their legal bid for a declaration that the Civil Partnership Act is in breach of their Human Rights.
The Supreme Court has decided that the Civil Partnership Act is in breach of Human Rights laws as it is only available to same-sex couples. This decision does not mean that the law will be changed but the government may come under pressure to do so.
Ms Steinfeld said that she hoped the government does the “right thing” and extends civil partnerships to all.
In a civil partnership, a couple is entitled to the same legal treatment in terms of inheritance, tax, pensions and next-of-kin arrangements as marriage.
The couple, who met in 2010 and have two children, said the "legacy of marriage" which "treated women as property for centuries" was not an option for them.
"We want to raise our children as equal partners and feel that a civil partnership - a modern, symmetrical institution - sets the best example for them," they explained.
Since March 2014, same-sex couples have been able to choose whether to enter a Civil Partnership or to marry. A Civil Partnership has not been possible for heterosexual couples, which led Ms Steinfeld and Mr Keidan to argue that the law was discriminatory.
This ruling overturns a previous judgement made by the Court of Appeal, which rejected the couple's claim.
How are they different from marriages?
Those in a civil partnership benefit from the same rights as married couples in terms of tax benefits, pensions and inheritance.
However, unlike a conventional marriage, there are no religious connotations attached to civil partnerships, making them a desirable option for those who want to legally recognise their relationship but don’t align themselves with a particular religion.
It will also take place in front a registrar as opposed to a recognised religious leader, such as a vicar or a rabbi.
Taylor Bracewell’s Senior Family Solicitor of Sharon McKie comments-
“Once same-sex couples were able to marry it was really only a matter of time before a heterosexual couple successfully argued that the Civil Partnership Act was incompatible with Human Rights legislation. It will remain to be seen whether the government now acts to change the law”.
What Does Civil Partnership Offer?
A civil partnership offers legal and financial protection for both parties in the event of the relationship ending, it is free of the religious connotations of marriage. Some object to marriage as an institution and its associations with property and patriarchy.
LGBT and human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell called the ruling a "victory for love and equality".
Martin Loat, chairman of the Equal Civil Partnerships campaign, said: "There is only one possible way forward - giving everyone the right to a civil partnership - and we urge the government to seize this opportunity to announce it will end this injustice now."
More than 130,000 people have signed an online petition in support of civil partnerships for everyone.
The couple's barrister Karon Monaghan QC told the court her clients had "deep-rooted and genuine ideological objections to marriage" and are "not alone" in their views.
There are around 63,000 couples in Civil Partnerships in the UK and some 3.3 million cohabiting couples.