London based couple, Charles Keidan and Rebecca Steinfeld, have been cohabiting for seven years. Rather than entering into a marriage, they decided that the best recognition of their relationship would be to enter into a civil partnership. However, they were unable to do so as, in terms of section 1 (1) of the Civil Partnership Act 2004, a civil partnership is “a relationship between two people of the same sex”. Accordingly it cannot be applied in the context of a heterosexual relationship. Charles and Rebecca contended that this was discriminatory on the grounds of sexual orientation given that, since the legalisation of same sex marriage, same sex couples have had the option to choose between marriage and civil partnership.
The Court of Appeal ruling (Click for link) was issued today. The couple have been unsuccessful. It was determined by a majority that although there is a potential human rights breach, the Government should have more time to decide on the future of civil partnerships. The position advanced on behalf of the Secretary of State for Education is that there ought not to be any change in the law until the effect on the uptake of civil partnerships resulting from the legalisation of same sex marriage has been assessed. Consideration may be given to whether or not civil partnerships will be phased out or extended to couples of opposite sex.
The couple have indicated in press releases that they remain positive and that they intend to appeal further to the Supreme Court.