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    Government to appear in court over ban on different-sex civil partnerships

    November 2, 2016

November 2, 2016

Government to appear in court over ban on different-sex civil partnerships

Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan will appear at the Royal Courts in London today seeking to overturn the government ban on different-sex civil partnerships.

Steinfeld and Keidan say that they want legal and financial protection for them and their daughter but have never felt comfortable with marriage. Their legal team will argue that the ban on different-sex civil partnerships is unfair because it treats people differently dependent on their sexuality

A public gathering will take place outside the Royal Courts in support of Steinfeld and Keidan attended by journalist and LGBT campaigner Owen Jones and many of the 70,000 supporters who have signed a petition calling for the extension of civil partnerships to mixed-sex couples.

Ms Steinfeld said:

“We are going to the Court of Appeal on behalf of ourselves and the more than 70,000 people who have signed our petition calling for civil partnerships to be open to all. Those people will have lots of different reasons for choosing not to get married: from personal experiences to principled objections, to simply not feeling ready. It’s not for the Government to dictate how couples choose to formalise their commitment but it is for the Government to ensure all couples are financially and legally protected.”

Mr Keidan said:

“The government has everything to gain by opening civil partnerships to different sex couples. Civil partnerships offer the possibility of legal protections and family stability for 3 million unmarried couples – the fastest growing family type in the UK. Civil partnerships already exist for same-sex couples. It would now be fair, straightforward and popular for the government to extend them to everyone.”

Alistair Carmichael MP helped to steer equal marriage through parliament in 2013. Mr Carmichael said:

“As an MP in the last Parliament I was proud to vote in favour of extending the right to marry to all couples who love each other, whether they are in a mixed-sex relationship or not. People need to be free to choose to celebrate their love however they want.

“My wife and I have been married for 29 years and I think that marriage is a great institution.   I realise, however, that it is not right for everyone and that many people want to have the legal protections that come from marriage without any of the other social or religious implications that come with it. For them, registering their relationship as a civil partnership should be available. It is no longer logical that this route should be open to people in same sex couples but not in mixed-sex relationships. The law needs to change.

“I’m supporting Rebecca and Charles and their campaign to ensure civil partnerships are an option for everyone. When the Court of Appeals announces their decision, I hope the Government will be quick to respond, and open up civil partnerships to anyone who wants one.”

Journalist and campaigner Owen Jones said:

“I’m really glad to be able to back this campaign. Many people don’t like the historic baggage of marriage and everyone should have the right to express their love in a way that works for them. I want equality for everyone and that means giving mixed-sex couples the right to a civil partnership.”

The couple sought a judicial review of the law after having their application for a civil partnership refused. Although they were unsuccessful at the first hearing in January, the judge said that she recognised the “wider public interest” of the case and that it was an issue “many would sympathise with”. The couple were given the right to appeal.

Louise Whitfield, a partner at Deighton Pierce Glynn, the legal firm representing Charles and Rebecca, said:

“We are very hopeful that the judges will realise the importance of this issue and how unfair the current arrangements are for couples like Charles and Rebecca.  Even though she dismissed the original case, the judge in the judicial review recognised how significant the unfairness was for many people’s right to family life, and she acknowledged that my clients should be allowed to have the issues considered by a higher court.  This is Charles and Rebecca’s chance to be treated fairly and equally in terms of how their relationship is recognised, a crucial legal right for them and many others.”

Since the first ruling, different sex civil partnerships have been introduced in the Isle of Man. The first civil partnership for a heterosexual couple took place there on Friday 14th October and on Friday 21st October Martin Loat and Claire Beale became the first different-sex couple from the UK to get a civil partnership in the British Isles when they flew to the Isle of Man for the ceremony.

Martin Loat said:

“We regard ourselves as one of the millions of happily unmarried couples in the UK. We want financial and legal protection for us and for our children but marriage just simply isn’t for us. We had a wonderful time visiting the Isle of Man but for many people living in the UK this simply isn’t an option. People should be able to get a civil partnership near their home and their family and I hope that after this court case the government will make that possible for all mixed-sex couples in the UK.”

The education campaigner and journalist Fiona Millar is one of a number of public figures supporting the Equal Civil Partnerships Campaign. Ms Millar said:

“Like many other people campaigning for equal civil partnership, we just want to have the same rights as same-sex couples. Every couple and every family should have the same legal rights regardless of how they choose to express their personal relationships. I am angry that an equalities minister is going to court, wasting public money, to stop a simple change in the law that could bring more equality.”