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Court of Appeal judgment on civil partnerships adds to pressure on government to consider law change

Posted on: 21st February 2017

A opposite sex couple have lost their Court of Appeal battle to have a civil partnership instead of a marriage.

Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan challenged a ruling that said they did not meet the legal requirement of being the same sex.

The judgment, handed down today, found that there was a potential human rights breach but the government should have more time to decide on the future of civil partnerships.

Nicola Waldman, private client lawyer at Hodge Jones & Allen says, “The Civil Partnership Act bars opposite-sex couples from entering into civil partnerships. This means that for heterosexual couples who want to ensure they are covered by legal protections and have the rights to certain benefits, they have no choice but to marry. For cohabitees, choosing not to marry means they have far more limited rights relating to joint property and assets in the event of separation or death of a partner, may not have the ability to make important choices about one another’s healthcare and do not benefit from exemptions relating to inheritance tax and capital gains tax.

Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan argued that the bar on them entering into a civil partnership was a potential breach of their human rights under ECHR and if that was correct, that the breach was not justified. In a dissenting judgment, the CoA agreed that it was a potential breach, but that the difference in treatment between same sex and opposite sex couples was justified, as the Government is currently evaluating the evidence to consider whether a change in the law is appropriate and what is the best way forward. There is also a Private Member’s Bill proposing removal of this bar, which has a second reading on 24 March this year.

This is clearly an important matter of social policy. The Office of National Statistics shows that there were over 3 million opposite-sex cohabiting couple families in the UK in 2016 and that they have been the fastest growing family type over the last 20 years. This case adds to growing pressure on the government to review the evidence that they have had since 2014 and to consider a change in the law to give the same benefits and legal recognition to those who choose not to marry.

Ends

Notes for Editors

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