Ian Butterworth
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Date Published:21 Feb 2017 Last Updated:22 Jul 2021

Civil Partnerships – No Heterosexuals Allowed

Family Law

The Court of Appeal has today ruled that heterosexual couples are not entitled to enter into a civil partnership.

The legal challenge was brought by Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan who live in Hammersmith, west London. They wanted to formalise the committed nature of their 6-year relationship by way of a civil partnership rather than a marriage but had been prevented from doing so as the Civil Partnership Act 2004 currently states that only same-sex couples can enter into a civil partnership.

Ms Steinfeld and Mr Keidan, who are both academics, believe that the institution of marriage is “sexist” and “patriarchal”.

The legal challenge was mounted on the basis the decision to only allow same-sex couples to enter into a civil partnership was discriminatory and otherwise a breach of their right to a private and family life under Article 8. Since 13 March 2014, same-sex couples have been able to choose between entering into a marriage or a civil partnership. At present, however, heterosexual couples do not have such a choice; their only option is to enter into a marriage.

The Court of Appeal found against Ms Steinfeld and Mr Keidan by a majority of two to one. The Government successfully argued that they should be given more time to see how extending marriage to same-sex couples impacts upon civil partnerships. All three judges agreed, however, that the current situation could not last indefinitely.

The decision of the Court of Appeal means that the only part of British Isles where heterosexual couples can enter into a civil partnership remains the Isle of Man.