Supreme Court to rule on civil partnerships for same-sex couples
A heterosexual couple will hear today if they have won their landmark legal battle in the UK’s highest court to be allowed to enter a civil partnership.
Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan first took the government to court in 2014 over the ban on civil partnerships between couples of different sexes. Their campaign has support from MPs from all parties and more than 131,000 people have signed a petition.
The couple, who have two children, wish to form a civil partnership because it “captures the essence of our relationship and values”, they say.
They see civil partnerships as a simple, modern contract conferring almost identical rights and responsibilities as marriage, but without its social pressures.
In February last year the Court of Appeal stated that the ban could not continue indefinitely because it breached human rights laws. But in a majority ruling of two to one, the court gave ministers time to decide on the future status of civil partnerships.
A change in the law to lift the ban is one of the reforms that The Times is calling for in its Family Matters campaign with the Marriage Foundation.
Ministers have agreed to consult unmarried couples of the opposite sex this year to bring forward proposals for changing the law, but this will not be before 2020.
However, the government consultation paper says: “Change in demand for civil partnerships among same-sex couples may not, taken alone, be a good indicator of the demand amongst opposite-sex couples, given that this institution has never been available to them.”
Since 2013 same-sex couples have been able to choose between marriage or civil partnership but the government has resisted calls to extend this right to opposite-sex couples.
Emma Willing, a lawyer with the London law firm Mishcon de Reya, said: “There is in fact no difference in terms of the financial consequences which flow from entering into a marriage or civil partnership and therefore, from a legal perspective, the debate is purely one of labels.
“However, it is clear there is an attraction for couples who do not want to marry but wish to enter into a form of registered partnership becoming partners, rather than husband and wife.”