Heterosexual couple seeking civil partnership await ruling from judge

Published: Friday 29th January 2016 by The News Editor

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A heterosexual couple who want to enter into a civil partnership rather than marry are set to find out if they have persuaded a High Court judge that they are being discriminated against.

Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan, who are both academics and live in Hammersmith, west London, argue that the Government’s position on civil partnerships is “incompatible with equality law”.

Dr Steinfeld, 34, and Mr Keidan, 39, who have been in a committed relationship since November 2010 and have an eight-month-old baby, want to secure legal recognition of that relationship through a civil partnership.

But the Civil Partnership Act 2004 stipulates that only same-sex couples are eligible.

Mrs Justice Andrews is to give her ruling on the case in London on Friday.

The couple’s QC, Karon Monaghan, told the judge at a recent hearing: “The claimants submit that the prohibition on access to a civil partnership by opposite-sex couples is directly discriminatory on grounds of sexual orientation since same-sex couples may enter into a civil partnership or a marriage, but opposite-sex couples may only enter into a marriage.”

She said the case raised “important matters” for “many couples”.

The lawyer told the court: “This simple civil mechanism would recognise the claimants as legal partners with attendant legal rights, protections and responsibilities, whilst avoiding the patriarchal rituals and substance associated with marriage.”

Without the ability to enter into a civil partnership the couple, who are engaged, would be “forced to enter into marriage against their consciences or remain without the legal protection and privileges that they and their child need, and to which they believe they should be entitled”.

At the centre of the case is section 1 of the 2004 Act which requires that civil partners be “two people of the same sex”.

The couple have asked the judge to grant a declaration that section 1 is “incompatible” with rights under the Human Rights Act 1998.

More than 30,000 people have signed a petition backing them.

Ms Monaghan said the Education Secretary, who has “responsibility for ‘equalities’ within Government” – had identified “no good grounds for failing to permit opposite-sex couples to enter civil partnerships”.

During the proceedings Dan Squires, counsel for the Education Secretary, said in written argument before the court: “In 2013 Parliament decided in extending marriage to same-sex couples not, for the time being, to extend civil partnerships to opposite-sex couples.

“A decision has also been taken by the Government to wait a period of time to see how extending marriage to same-sex couples impacts upon civil partnerships before reaching a final decision on the future of civil partnerships, and has decided that it is not necessary to undertake the costly and complex exercise of extending civil partnerships in the interim where they may be abolished or phased out in a few years.”

That decision was “objectively justifiable and plainly proportionate”.

He said avoiding “unnecessary costs and disruption pending a final decision on civil partnerships is obviously a legitimate aim”.

At present there was no clear indication how civil partnerships were likely to be affected by extending marriage to same-sex couples and “no consensus as to what their future should be”, he said.

Published: Friday 29th January 2016 by The News Editor

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