Legal bid to overturn ban on different-sex civil partnerships

Appeal Court to hear case for equal civil partnerships for straight couples


Support heterosexual equality, End discrimination, Equal options for all

London, UK – 3 November 2016


Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan are putting their case to the Appeal Court in London this week, in a bid to overturn the ban on different-sex civil partnerships, which remained banned under the Civil Partnership Act 2004. The judgement is likely to be reserved, with the Appeal Court’s ruling being announced several weeks from now.

Rebecca and Charles’s petition, calling for equal civil partnerships, has over 70,000 signatures.

View and sign the petition here.

Find out more about the Equal Civil Partnerships campaign.

“It’s time for straight equality. Currently, civil partnerships are open to same-sex
couples only. Heterosexuals are banned. That’s discrimination and a violation of human rights. In a democratic society, everyone should be equal before the law, with the same rights and responsibilities. We are buoyed by the fact that the Isle of Man this year became the first part of the British Isles to open up civil partnerships to male-female couples. If the Isle of Man can have civil partnership equality why not the UK?” said Peter Tatchell, LGBT and human rights campaigner and Director of the Peter Tatchell Foundation. He is backing the legal challenge by Charles and Rebecca; having championed equal civil partnerships for the last 13 years, from the moment they were first proposed for same-sex couples only.

Co-plaintiff in the application to the Appeal Court, Rebecca Steinfeld, said:

“We’re going to court on behalf of ourselves and the more than 70,000 people who have signed our petition calling for civil partnerships to be open to all. It’s been almost two years since we started this effort for extending civil partnerships.

“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 symmetrical, 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.”

Her co-plaintiff, Charles Keidan added:

“We 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. It’s now time for the government to demonstrate its commitment to equality by opening up civil partnerships to all couples.”

Peter Tatchell, added:

“I support the legal bid by Rebecca and Charles to overturn the discriminatory ban on opposite-sex civil partnerships. The ban is without merit or justification. It is outrageous that the government is unwilling to legislate equality and that this couple are forced to go to court to get a basic human right – the right to be treated equally in law.

“Civil partnerships for opposite-sex couples is a simple matter of ending discrimination and ensuring equality for all. In a democratic society, we are all supposed to be equal before the law. It cannot be right that same-sex couples now have two options, civil partnerships and civil marriages, whereas opposite-sex partners have only one option, marriage.”

The ECP’s case for opening up civil partnerships to different-sex couples:

1. Extending civil partnerships will provide a legal and financial safety net for couples who don’t want to get married and, if they have any, for their children.
2. Every person and every couple has the right to be treated equally by the law – the current ban on different-sex civil partnerships is unfair and is at odds with that basic democratic principle.
3. This inequality can be very easily addressed with a simple amendment in Parliament to the Civil Partnership Act.

Why can’t people just get married?

There are lots of reasons people choose not to get married: from personal experiences or principles, to simply not feeling ready. Some share the feminist critique of marriage; objecting to the sexist, patriarchal traditions of wedlock. It’s not for the Government to dictate or limit people’s choices but it is for the Government to ensure that all couples are financially and legally protected – and treated equally in law.

Why is the government opposed?

The Government said at the previous court hearing was that they were debating whether to scrap civil partnerships altogether. This is likely to ring alarm bells for many people in the LGBT community and those already in same-sex civil partnerships. There are suspicions that the Government is bowing to religious pressure to oppose equal civil partnerships. Some faith leaders fear that civil partnerships will detract from marriage and lead to a fall in weddings. Ministers have previously cited the cost but the cost of civil partnerships is no greater than for marriages. In any case, the cost is not huge and equality should not be voided on financial grounds.

What are the possible outcomes?

We know our legal team has a very strong case, but what matters more than anything is that the Government understands the need to extend civil partnerships to provide a legal and financial safety net for all families and their children when the couple doesn’t want to get married – and to ensure that every couple gets equal treatment by the law.

Aren’t there more important things in the world to worry about?

There are over 3 million unmarried couples in the UK, with millions more dependent children. It is really important that they are financially and legally protected. Extending civil partnerships would be a way to offer them that protection. And the ludicrous thing is this is so easy to put right.

Is there actually any demand for extending civil partnerships?

Over 3 million unmarried couples in the UK are potentially affected, some of whom have even gone to the Isle of Man to register as civil partners because UK law won’t permit them to have a civil partnership. Over 70,000 people have signed our petition calling on the Government to make this simple change to ensure they and their children are legally and financially protected. In the Netherlands, where civil partnerships have been open to all couples for more than a decade, around 10 per cent of heterosexual couples choose to have a civil partnership rather than marry. There could be a similar take-up rate if civil partnerships were available in the UK.