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Civil Partnership case goes to Supreme Court today

Rebecca Steinfield and Charles Keidan's appeal hearing due to last two days

Rebecca Steinfield and Charles Keidan take their case today to the Supreme Court to secure the same legal recognition as same-sex civil partners without getting married. The appeal will be heard by  Lady Hale, Lord Kerr, Lord Wilson, Lord Reed and Lady Black, and is scheduled to last two days.

In February last year, the Court of Appeal agreed that the couple are being treated differently because of their sexual orientation, which impacts on their private and family life. This was to allow the government time to evaluate whether to extend civil partnerships to all. The Queen's Speech following last year's General Election did not include any indication that the Civil Partnership Act 2004 would be amended to extend civil partnerships to all.

Earlier this year, the issue of extended rights for unmarried couples was debated in the House of Commons and passed to the next stage through Parliament. During that debate, the government was allowed to amend the bill to review the operation of civil partnerships. Further evidence about the demand and need for civil partnerships is likely to be available by July 2018.

Graeme Fraser, partner at Finchley-based OGR Stock Denton, comments as follows:

"I anticipate that the Supreme Court will rule that the current law is discriminatory so long as civil partnership remains as an option only for same-sex couples.

"This does not, however, mean that new legislation will be quickly introduced since policymakers may consider alternative options, including the abolition of civil partnerships altogether, with marriage retained as the formal recognition of both opposite-sex and same-sex unions.

"The government will likely await the outcome of their review into the operation of civil partnerships expected this Summer in any event before making any final decision regarding new legislation.

"A change in the law extending civil partnerships to opposite-sex couples would allow those that opt for them similar financial security to marriage thereby extending their choice as to how they formalise their relationships.

"Parliament should, however, first address as a matter of priority, the more pressing issue of introducing specific family law remedies to protect vulnerable cohabitants, many of whom are often women with children left with no financial security because their partners who are in a stronger financial position will not or cannot marry them or enter into civil partnerships.

"Until then, for the estimated 3.3 million cohabiting, obtaining legal advice can help them decide arrangements that are right for them and their children if the couple separate or one of them are left bereaved."

For the Court of Appeal judgment, prefaced by a summary by Sally Gore of Fenners Chambers, click here. For an article on the Court of Appeal judgment by David Bedingfield of 4 Paper Buildings, click here.

The appeal hearing can be viewed via the Supreme Court website.

14/5/18