England: Heterosexual couple fail in bid for civil partnership as judges back government’s ‘wait and evaluate’ policy



Lord Justice Briggs

A heterosexual couple have failed in their legal battle to have a civil partnership instead of a marriage.

Rebecca Steinfeld, 35, and Charles Keidan, 40, lost their case at the Court of Appeal following a ruling that said they could not enter into a civil partnership because they were not the same sex.

Judges in the appeal court acknowledged that the prohibition may breach articles 8 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights but that the government should be given more time to determine the future of civil partnerships, in line with its policy of “wait and evaluate”.

The couple plan to appeal to the Supreme Court.

BBC’s legal affairs correspondent Clive Coleman said: “The government’s ‘wait and see’ policy, which is based on looking at the take-up of same-sex civil partnerships, was found by Lady Justice Arden not to be not good enough to address the discrimination faced by heterosexual couples.

“However, her fellow judges were prepared to let the government have a little more time and so the case was lost on that issue alone.”

The pair do not consider marriage suitable for them but nevertheless want some legal recognition of their relationship in a social institution “which is modern, which is symmetrical and that focuses on equality, which is exactly what a civil partnership is,” Ms Steinfeld said.

She added: “We lost on a technicality - that the government should be allowed a little more time to make a decision.

“So there’s everything to fight for, and much in the ruling that gives us reason to be positive and keep going.”

Mr Keidan added: “The Court of Appeal has made it clear the status quo cannot continue.

“The government should now recognise the benefits of opening civil partnerships to mixed-sex couples.

“The measure is fair, popular, good for families and children, and long overdue.”

Lord Justice Briggs stated in the judgment: “I can well understand the frustration which must be felt by the Appellants and those different-sex couples who share their view about marriage, about what they regard as the Government’s slow progress on this issue. Some couples in their position may suffer serious fiscal disadvantage if, for example, one of them dies before they can form a civil partnership.”

He added: “The justifiable question is whether a policy of ‘wait and evaluate’ is proportionate, and therefore justifiable, at present. In my view, for the reasons given by my Lord, it is.”