In the case brought by Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan, the Supreme Court unanimously allowed the appeal by Steinfeld and Keidan. The Court found that there was inequality between same-sex couples and heterosexual couples.
The details of the case
Steinfeld and Keidan are a heterosexual couple in a stable long-term relationship with genuine and deeply held objections to marriage. They complained that the non-availability of civil partnership discriminated against them on the grounds of their sexual orientation, in the enjoyment of their right to respect for private and family life. They argued that it was one thing when the civil partnership was deliberately introduced as a way of giving legal recognition, rights and remedies to same sex couples because they could not marry. It was however, another thing once same sex couples were allowed to marry because there is now a choice between marriage or civil partnership.
The Civil Partnership Act 2004
The sections in question concern s.1 and s.3 of the Civil Partnership Act 2004.
S.1 defines a civil partnership, and part of the definition concerns the fact that a civil partnership is a ‘relationship between two people of the same sex.’
S.3 looks at eligibility of a civil partnership and lists among others that two people are not eligible to register as civil partners of each other if they are not the same sex.
The Court made a declaration that s.1 and 3 of the Civil Partnership Act 2004 are incompatible with Article 14 (prohibition on discrimination) and Article 8 (right to respect for private life) of the European Convention on Human Rights to the extent that they preclude heterosexual couples from entering into civil partnerships.
What this means
In reality a declaration of incompatibility only draws attention to the violation of rights involved in the compatible provision, here s.1 and s.3 of the Civil Partnership Act 2004. There is almost always more than one solution to unjustified discrimination on suspect grounds.
In May 2018 the government released a policy paper saying further research was required to determine the future of civil partnerships. The government is currently considering the Supreme Court Judgement, amid calls from family specialists for wider reform, including introducing basic protections for unmarried cohabiting couples.
If you would like to discuss any issues raised in this article or an matrimonial issues generally, please contact Paul Wild, our Family Law Partner, on 0118 958 9711 or [email protected] and he would be glad to assist you. Paul also offers a confidential one-hour fixed fee meeting for £95 inclusive of VAT.