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Court of Appeal awaits as High Court blocks straight couple civil partnerships

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Lawyers take to Twitter to vent their frustration

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A boyfriend and girlfriend duo has lost their bid to secure civil partnerships for straight couples — but it’s far from the end of the road.

Today, heterosexual couple Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan lost their judicial review challenge of the Civil Partnership Act 2004, which they claimed unlawfully discriminates against them because they are straight.

The couple, represented by Karon Monaghan QC, argued that by restricting the availability of civil partnerships to homosexual couples only, the law infringes their human rights — namely Article 14, tagged to Article 8. The claimants also said that maintaining a difference in treatment has no legitimate aim, and is not justified in law. They sought a declaration of incompatibility under the Human Rights Act 1998.

Daniel Squires, defending the government, said that the rights were not infringed, because the couple are able to marry and to have their relationship socially recognised. He added that it’s not the state’s fault that Steinfeld and Keidan don’t like the route available to them.

After a detailed analysis of the European Court of Human Rights’ jurisprudence on the issue, the judge concluded:

Just as the UK was under no obligation to extend marriage to same-sex couples, it has never been under an obligation to extend civil partnership to heterosexual couples… For those reasons this claim falls at the first hurdle.

The reaction to this much-awaited High Court ruling has been mixed.

Some took to social media to applaud the court for protecting “traditional” civil partnerships, but the message from the lawyers is clear: this law needs changing.

There is not, however, unity about what this change should be. Should the availability of civil partnerships be widened to include heterosexual couples, or should they be abolished altogether?

When Legal Cheek spoke to family law blogger John Bolch, he had this to say:

The decision of Mrs Justice Andrews comes as no surprise. However, there really doesn’t seem to be any good reason why the law should not be changed to allow heterosexual couples to enter into civil partnerships, as is the case in other countries.

Family law solicitor Marilyn Stowe shares Bolch’s view. She told us:

I would like to see civil partnerships opened up for all couples because I see it as offering a modern alternative to the more accepted form of a traditional marriage.

For others, following the legalisation of gay marriage, civil partnerships simply have no place in society anymore.

Luckily for these lawyers, and others who disagree with the ruling, it looks like round two is on its way.

When I went to watch the hearing last week, Mrs Justice Andrews hinted that a case of this importance would probably reach the higher courts, and now it’s looking likely that this will happen.

Though she dismissed the couple’s judicial review action, the judge did give them permission to appeal. This is because the case raises issues of “wider importance”.

And Steinfeld — an academic from London — has indicated that she will be taking up Andrews’ offer and appealing the decision.

So it looks like law reform could well be on its way.

Read the judgement in full below:

19 Comments

Mumsie

Generic slag off Katie King comment

(5)(3)

Richard O'Brien

Perhaps a go in the Crystal Dome with the chance to win an adventure day would sort her out?

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Anonymous

Well it is her normal standard of writing. Even the headline is terribly worded.

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Anonymous

It’s a well written article.

(4)(8)

Ink

They were never going to win on Article 8. It is difficult to see how something deliberately created as a ‘lesser’ version of marriage (not as an alternative to it) made on the path for full LGBT equality, is something that opposite sex couples now want for themselves.

(5)(0)

Anonymous

A classic example of first world problems, and a dreadful waste of the money donated to fund the case (which could have been used to fund more worthy cases), the Court time which could have been dedicated to other cases waiting time etc.

What exactly were they hoping to achieve? The Government will have to revisit the issue anyway (either abolish civil partnerships, or extend them) in the fullness of time, so a declaration of incompatibility was at best a method of expediting the issue.

(9)(2)

Quo Vadis

This is a pointless and attention-seeking case brought by a couple who allowed their weird disdain for traditional marriage to overwhelm their common sense.

(21)(2)

Anonymous

Plenty of people do not want to get married as it’s associated with very negative connotations. Many people do, but given a choice they’d opt for a civil partnership in a heartbeat. Moreover, there’s no rational reason why straight couples can’t get a civil partnership – right now the system is discriminatory. However, most of us don’t have the time to take the issue to court, so well done on this couple.

(7)(9)

Anonymous

And this case demonstrates everything wrong with a certain type of academic that so focuses on an issue that they lose all sense of perspective, shut up as they are with like minded individuals and not able to comprehend life beyond campus. I had one such a “world renowned expert on sexual violence” told a lecture theatre that I was in that no woman has EVER made a false accusation of rape while another family law lecturer told me that it was always best for a child to have contact with their birth parents. Both comments to which I objected definitudes’ are rarely a good idea but something you hear often from academics.

(4)(3)

Anonymous

You might have wanted to research the chambers that both counsel practice at – it would have made it sound more sensational.

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Anonymous

Here’s an example of where ECHR jurisprudence will not help as there’s no European consensus on equal marriage.

Not all ECHR member states even recognise same sex relationship, let alone same sex marriage.

(1)(0)

Anonymous

Although, when an ECHR country grants a right beyond what the ECHR requires, it cannot discriminate on the application of that right [EB v France (2008) 47 EHRR 21].

In EB, France granted a right to adopt, after certain authorisations, but discriminated based on homosexuality – the ECtHR struck down the ban on homosexual adoption despite Article 8 not granting the right to adopt:

“the State, which has gone beyond its obligations under Article 8 in creating such a right [to adopt] […] cannot, in the application of that right, take discriminatory measures within the meaning of Article 14”

You don’t need a breach of a substantive right to use Article 14, you just need to engage a substantive right by finding a substantive right which pertains to your case. In the present case it’s difficult to argue that civil partnerships don’t pertain to family life, even if Article 8 doesn’t directly require them.

(1)(1)

Anonymous

fuck up

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Anonymous

Incidentally, the Judgment is excellent. Andrews J obviously took extra care after LC suggested she didn’t understand the case last week…

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Anonymous

Yeah, I’m sure Andrews J cares a lot about what LC says!

(0)(1)

Anonymous

Oh dear, someone’s sarcasm radar isn’t working today (it is an excellent judgment though!)

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Not Amused

“robertshrimsley CPs shd have all been automatically converted to marriages under the 2013 Act. Shd be the same form of legal Union for all.”

I think this quote captures 1) what lefty lawyers think, 2) why they never agree with the public and 3) why they are wrong.

The question of what *should* happen was for parliament. The question of what *did* happen is for lawyers. Too often the lefty lawyers believe that it is their position to run the country. It isn’t. They are servants and parts of the legal system. That system belongs to the people and the people’s representatives make the decisions. Not lawyers.

(2)(2)

Anonymous

KK’s initial coverage of this case was painful, but I thought this article was written to a respectable journalistic standard.

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Laird Lyle of the Isles.

Any one that gets married by sassanach Law needs a psychiatric referral. Ah refused to accept them. in case you dinnae know there is a dual system of marriage in this country. The vast majority of my matrimonial cases were Muslim and Hindu or other forms of customary marriage.

when sassenachs came to my office I referred them to their GP for a psychiatric assessment.

(1)(1)

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