Court case to determine whether civil partnerships may be available to opposite-sex couples

The family team at Carter Lemon Camerons LLP (CLC) are watching with interest a case that was first heard in London yesterday (19 January 2016).

A couple are bringing a legal challenge to the non-availability of civil partnerships for opposite-sex couples. The case is being brought on the grounds that the refusal to allow Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan to participate in a civil partnership amounts to discrimination. The couple claim that section 1 of the Civil Partnership Act 2004, which restricts civil partnerships to same-sex couples only, is incompatible with Article 14 (read with Article 8) of the European Convention on Human Rights, which states that everyone should be treated equally by law, regardless of sex or sexual orientation.

Rebecca and Charles said: “We’ve just had a baby and we want to cement and celebrate our relationship by forming a civil partnership but we can’t. We were both involved in the fight for same-sex marriage within our community and it is fantastic social progress that couples can now marry, regardless of sexual orientation. We, however, want to raise our child as equal partners and believe that a civil partnership – a modern, symmetrical institution – best reflects our beliefs, and sets the best example for her.”

An online petition in favour of expanding civil partnerships to include opposite-sex couples has so far attracted more than 34,000 signatures as well as support from former children’s minister, Tim Loughton, and cross-party backing from other MPs.

The hearing, held before Mrs Justice Andrews, is due to last two days at the Royal Courts of Justice in London. The Bill will have its second reading on 29 January 2016.

Chris Corney, Partner at CLC, commented: “The court case will determine whether opposite-sex couples will have the same rights as same-sex couples to civil partnership. In the meantime, a lot of unmarried co-habiting couples continue to hold the mistaken belief that the common law gives them protection just because they are living together.”