Straight couple win the right to have civil partnership after Supreme Court ruling
The UK’s highest court has ruled that the current ban on civil partnerships for heterosexual couples is a violation of their human rights.
Rebecca Steinfeld and partner Chris Keidan applied for a civil partnership in 2014 but were turned down, as they are only open to same-sex couples.
The couple then began a lengthy campaign against the denial, arguing that the current law was discriminatory and that not all couples are comfortable with the nature of marriage, but want the economic and legal protections it brings.
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court overturned this earlier judgement by unanimously ruling that denying civil partnerships to straight couples is “incompatible with their human rights” and the ban “amounted to discrimination.”
Their ruling said: “The interests of the community in denying those different-sex couples who have a genuine objection to being married, the opportunity to enter into a civil partnership are unspecified and not easy to envisage.
“In contrast, the denial of those rights for an indefinite period may have far-reaching consequences for those who wish to avail themselves – and who are entitled to assert them – now.”
The Supreme Court judgement does not automatically force a change in the law, however, the government could act to legalise civil partnerships for heterosexual couples following the ruling.
Civil partnerships were introduced across the UK from 2004 as a form of union for gay couples ‘distinct’ from marriage.
The system was left in place after the introduction of same-sex marriage in England, Wales and Scotland – but critics have highlighted the “inequality” of gay couples having two forms of possible union, while straight couples are only able to marry.
Ms Steinfeld and Mr Keidan will reportedly go to Whitehall later on Wednesday to deliver a letter to Equalities Minister Penny Mordaunt.
In May, the government raised the possibility that it could abolish civil partnerships, which were introduced under the Labour government in 2004.
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The number of new civil partnerships has plummeted to just a few hundred per year following the introduction of same-sex marriage in 2014, prompting a government report that raised the prospect of scrapping them.
The document was published in the name of the Secretary of State for International Development and Minister for Women and Equalities Penny Mordaunt.
But in a public statement Mordaunt branded media reports on the issue “inaccurate,” though she did not make any specific denials relating to coverage.
Abolition of civil partnerships would likely be complicated, as they are currently the only form of union open to same-sex couples in Northern Ireland, due to continued failure to secure marriage equality.