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Couple challenge ban on heterosexual civil partnerships

Judicial review proceedings brought by couple

Charles Keidan and Rebecca Steinfeld begin a two day hearing in the High Court on the 19th January 2016 in judicial review proceedings challenging the government's failure to offer civil partnership to heterosexual couples.

Mr Keidan and Ms Steinfeld sought to register notice of intention to form a civil partnership in December 2014. It was refused. In February 2015 they were granted permission to bring judicial review proceedings.

They claim that section 1 of the Civil Partnership Act 2004, which restricts civil partnerships to same-sex couples, is incompatible with Article 14 (read with Article 8) of the European Convention on Human Rights, which states that everyone should be treated equally by law, regardless of sex or sexual orientation.

The couple told the Equal Civil Partnerships campaign:

"We are taking this case because the UK Government is barring us, and many thousands of opposite-sex couples like us, from the choice of forming a civil partnership, and we want this to change.

"Personally, we wish to form a civil partnership because that captures the essence of our relationship and values. Civil partnerships are a modern social institution conferring almost identical legal rights and responsibilities as marriage, but without its historical baggage, gendered provisions and social expectations. We don't think there is any justification for stopping us or other opposite-sex couples from forming civil partnerships.

"Yet the Civil Partnership Act 2004 states: 'Two people are not eligible to register as civil partners of each other if … they are not of the same sex.'  In other words, civil partnerships are only available to same sex-couples. Thus, when we sought to give 'notice of intention' to enter into a civil partnership in September 2014, we were refused by the Registrars at Chelsea Old Town Hall. As a result, we launched a legal case, petition and fund in December 2014 to challenge this direct discrimination in law so that we and other opposite-sex couples can have the choice between civil partnership and marriage.

"We also believe that opening civil partnerships to opposite-sex couples would complete the circle of full relationship equality that began with the hard-won victory for same-sex marriage.  We campaigned for equal marriage and believe that the significance and symbolism of opening marriage to same-sex couples cannot be overstated. Legalising same-sex marriage was the recognition that everyone is of equal worth and has the right to equal treatment under the law."

For more information about the case and its background, visit the website of Equal Civil Partnerships.