A straight couple from London have announced their engagement, but have said that they will get civilly partnered rather than married, in order to push for full marriage equality.

Charles Keidan and Rebecca Steinfeld announced their engagement in The Jewish Chronicle today. But rather than using the standard wedding announcements section, they were listed under ‘Forthcoming Civil Partnership.’

The couple, who proposed to each other on a mountainside near the snow-capped Pyrenees, decided to announce their engagement in this way to add to the work they have already done to advocate for marriage equality in the most personal way possible.

They hope for a new way for all couples to be able to formalise their commitment to one another without the historical “baggage” of marriage, and to be able to enter into an institution which has always strived to be inclusive, rather than excluding minority groups.

The couple are strong advocates of equal marriage for same-sex couples, and helped to set up the Facebook page ‘British Jews for Equal Marriage’, and Jews4Equality on Twitter, both of which push for same-sex marriage in Britain. They are also supporters of Keshet UK, which champions the inclusion of LGBTQI people in all areas of Jewish life.

Speaking to Pinknews, Mr Keidan said: “Our announcement in the Jewish Chronicle, as far as we know, is the first of its kind and we are grateful to them for their willingness to accommodate it.”

Noting the upcoming consultation on extending civil partnerships to opposite-sex couples, which was announced in June during the equal marriage debate, the couple said they wanted the British Government to extend civil partnerships to straight couples.

Failing that, they said that they hoped that the European Court of Human Rights will rule in the Ferguson and Others v United Kingdom case that the UK will have to stop barring straight couples from civil partnerships. They are also looking at entering into a civil union in France, or some US states, should that not happen.

Despite support for the introduction of civil partnerships for straight couples across the UK, there is speculation that they may be phased out altogether with the introduction of same-sex marriage, the Act for which received Royal Assent earlier this year. 

When asked about the possibility of civil marriage, which will soon be available to same-sex couples in England and Wales, Dr Steinfeld said: “We want to be part of an institution that is free of patriarchal history, that formalises a relationship of equals, and that has sought to include previously marginalised and persecuted groups, not sought to exclude them. Civil partnership captures this as it allows a formal, legal tie, but without the ‘baggage’ of a centuries-old tradition – and all the gender and cultural stereotypes that marriage entails. We want a simple civil contract between ourselves, where we’re recognised as partners.”

Mr Keidan added, “We hope that the UK government and the general public understands why the availability of this option is important for us as well as other same-sex and opposite-sex couples.”