It has been announced today that a heterosexual couple’s case to be allowed to enter into a civil partnership has been dismissed by the Court.
The Civil Partnership Act 2004 allowed same sex couples who entered into a civil partnership to obtain the same rights and responsibilities as married heterosexual couples. Although same-sex marriage has since been legalised in this country since March 2014, civil partnerships remain available – but only to same sex couples. Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan argue that this amounts to discrimination; they have rejected marriage as a “patriarchal institution” and have said that they want to be able to regulate their relationship in a way that doesn’t give rise to the stigma and social expectations that come with marriage.
However, Mrs Justice Andrews, hearing the case, has said that the Government’s decision not to make civil partnerships available to heterosexual couples is not unlawful and is not a breach of their human rights to private and family life, although the couple have been given leave to appeal.
Whilst records show that, since same sex marriage was introduced, the number of same sex couples entering into civil partnerships has fallen significantly, a petition in support of heterosexual civil partnerships attracted 36,000 supporters. So often we see the law failing to keep up to speed with social change and many will argue that this is another example of that failure. For couples who choose not to marry, the current law on cohabitation is uncertain and incoherent and there is only a patchwork of legal remedies available to cohabiting couples. For heterosexual couples who wish to create mutual rights and responsibilities outside the confines of marriage, there is currently no option available and it will be interesting to see the outcome as and when this case comes before the Court of Appeal.