A heterosexual couple have lost their case in the Court of Appeal to enter in to a civil partnership instead of a marriage.
Since 2014, when the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act came into force, same-sex couples have been able to choose between civil partnership and marriage. However, this is not a choice that is available to opposite-sex couples. Ms Steinfeld and Mr Keidan believe this distinction is discriminatory and that the choice should be extended to all couples irrespective of their sexuality. They do not wish to marry and instead wish to enter in to a civil partnership.
Ms Steinfeld and Mr Keidan applied to judicially review the government’s decision not to extend the option of a civil partnership to opposite-sex couples. It is their position that the restriction on opposite-sex couples entering into a civil partnership is incompatible with Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) and Article 14 (prohibition on discrimination) of the European Convention on Human Rights. The government’s position is that it needs to “wait and see” how the introduction of same-sex marriage has impacted on civil partnerships before making a decision in respect of whether this form of union will be extended to opposite-sex couples or, alternatively, whether civil partnerships will be abolished entirely.
Ms Steinfeld and Mr Keidan’s application to the High Court failed and they appealed to the Court of Appeal. The appeal was heard in November 2016 and the judgment was made available last week.
The Court of Appeal decided that whilst the bar on opposite-sex couples entering into civil partnerships is potentially discriminatory and “unsustainable” in the longer-term, the government’s plan to “wait and see” how the introduction of same-sex marriage in 2014 has impacted on on civil partnerships before making any decisions with regard to their future was objectively justified and proportionate. However, the Court of Appeal indicated that the government will have to do something to eliminate this potential discrimination within a reasonable time frame.
Ms Steinfeld and Mr Keidan plan to appeal to the Supreme Court. In addition, Tim Loughton, MP for East Worthing and Shoreham, has presented a Private Members Bill which would amend the Civil Partnership Act 2004 to enable opposite-sex couples to enter into a civil partnership. You can find out more about his views in relation to this subject here.
Case citation: Rebecca Hannah Steinfeld & Charles Robin Keidan v Secretary of State for Education  EWCA Civ 81