Court of Appeal: Denying straight people civil partnerships is NOT unlawful

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By Katie King on

The boyfriend and girlfriend claimants think the law discriminates against them

The Court of Appeal has this morning ruled against a boyfriend and girlfriend who claim civil partnerships are unlawful because they’re not available to straight people.

The appellants, Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan, had brought the case as a judicial review against the Secretary of State for Education. They said marriage is “not an option” for them because of its sexist legacy (“it treated women as property for centuries… and still leaves room only for fathers’ names on marriage certificates”).

Through their barrister, Matrix Chambers’ Karon Monaghan QC, the pair argued that restricting the availability of civil partnerships to homosexual couples infringes their human rights. They said the Civil Partnership Act 2004 breaches the Human Rights Act 1998 — namely article 14, tagged to article 8 — and sought a declaration of incompatibility.

At first instance over a year ago, the judge, Mrs Justice Andrews DBE, said the claim falls at the first hurdle because the state is under “no obligation” to extend civil partnerships to heterosexual couples. She gave the claimants permission to appeal because of the case’s “wider importance”. Now, sitting in courtroom 74 this morning, the judges — Lady Justice Arden, Lord Justice Beatson and Lord Justice Briggs — upheld Andrews’ decision.

It was a narrow win for the government, however. All three judges agreed there was discrimination and said it could not last indefinitely, but only Arden stated the government needs to change the law immediately. Beatson and Briggs said ministers can have longer to review the situation.

While Steinfeld and Keidan haven’t managed to win over the Court of Appeal, they have captured the public’s attention. Over 72,000 people have signed a petition calling for the law of civil partnerships to be extended to heterosexuals.

Read the judgment in full below:

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