An opposite-sex couple who wish to enter into a civil partnership now hope to take the matter to the Supreme Court after the Court of Appeal ruled against them. Currently, UK law only allows opposite-sex couples to enter into civil partnerships.
The solicitor representing Charles Keidan and Rebecca Steinfeld has confirmed that the couple intends to seek a hearing in the Supreme Court, the UK’s highest court. They are seeking a judicial review on the government’s decision that it will not pursue any change to the current law which prevents opposite-sex couples from entering into a civil partnership. After losing their case in the High Court, the couple then proceeded to the Court of Appeal where they again lost their case on 21st February.
Appealing to the Supreme Court will cost the couple a minimum of £20,000, according to a post on the website of the legal firm representing them, Deighton Pierce Glynn. They must submit their application for a hearing by the end of this week.
Louise Whitfield, the solicitor representing the couple, said that it was “very frustrating indeed that my clients lost their appeal by such a narrow margin on such an important issue, particularly when all three judges readily accepted that there had been a potential violation of their human rights.”
Whitfield also said that the government “must act quickly” to deal with an issue “which the court as a whole recognised could not continue indefinitely and which they agreed is ultimately unsustainable.” She said that one of the judges, Lady Justice Arden, had “accepted that time had already run out” for the government to take action, but that “her fellow judges were unfortunately prepared to allow the government a little more time.”
There is currently a bill making its way through parliament which would indeed see the government open up civil partnerships to opposite-sex couples, the Civil Partnership Act 2004 (Amendment) Bill 2015. This bill is due to go before the House of Commons for its second reading next month.
Proponents of civil partnership for opposite-sex couples say that it would enable cohabiting couples to access the same legal benefits as married couples even if they do not wish to actually get married. There are currently few rights and protections for unmarried cohabiting couples in the UK. Others wish both to access these protections and make a statement of commitment, but without the cultural baggage that they feel is attached to the status of marriage.
The government welcomed the Court of Appeal’s ruling on Steinfeld and Keidan’s appeal. A spokesperson said that the government would “carefully consider this judgement and will take it into account as we evaluate the take-up of civil partnerships and same-sex marriage.”