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March 7, 2017

Women’s Day postcards sent to Justine Greening urging her to back mixed-sex civil partnerships

Close to forty postcards will arrive at the office of the Minister for Equalities Justine Greening tomorrow urging her to use International Women’s Day to kickstart the process of introducing mixed-sex civil partnerships.

The postcards, sent by individual supporters of the Equal Civil Partnerships Campaign, say that introducing mixed-sex civil partnerships would show real intent by the government to create gender parity.

The postcards say:

“The organisers of this year’s International Women’s Day ask everyone to “Be Bold for Change” and take concrete steps to gender parity. One simple change you could do to help thousands of women in the UK is: make civil partnerships available to all couples.

“Many women in mixed-sex relationships do not feel comfortable with marriage because, for them, it carries cultural and patriarchal baggage. Their right to legal and financial protection for their relationship and their family should not be denied. That right should not be denied just because the current law holds that only one union is valid for mixed-sex couples.”

Prominent supporter of the campaign journalist and activist Fiona Millar said:

“Marriage just isn’t for me but I would like to have a simple partnership arrangement that gives the same legal and financial protection that is now available to same sex couples who choose not to marry. Our children are grown up now but I feel it it is very important the law is changed to support younger women and families who maybe don’t realise that their rights are so limited and that the same choices are available to all, regardless of sexuality . It is shocking to me that the government equalities office is opposing a simple move that would bring more equality and security to so many people.”

Pressure on the government to introduce civil partnerships for mixed-sex couples increased last month when the Court of Appeal ruled that the current ban is in breach of the Human Rights Act. Although the court gave the government more time to decide the future of civil partnerships it made it clear that action must be taken soon.

In their ruling, Lord Justice Beatson said: “I do not consider that the discrimination in the status quo can be maintained for long”.

Lord Justice Briggs said. “‘I can well understand the frustration which must be felt by the Appellants and those couples who share their view about marriage, about what they regard as the Government’s slow progress on this issue. Some couples in their position may suffer serious fiscal disadvantage if, for example, one of them dies before they can form a civil partnership.”

There are over three million mixed-sex couples in England and Wales who are in cohabiting relationships. One in three of those couples have children. A petition calling for the introduction of mixed-sex civil partnerships has been signed by over 75000 people and the campaign for equal civil partnerships is now backed by MPs from nearly every major political party.

February 21, 2017

Court rules unequal access to civil partnerships cannot continue

The Court of Appeal has today ruled that the current ban on mixed-sex civil partnerships cannot continue indefinitely.

In a split decision (2:1), London couple Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan narrowly lost their legal challenge to the government’s ongoing ban on mixed-sex civil partnerships.

Although all three judges agreed that the government’s policy of “wait and see” must end soon, two judges concluded that the government should be allowed slightly more time before coming to a decision on the future status of civil partnerships. The ruling states that the government now has only a short window to ‘wait and evaluate’ before deciding whether to extend civil partnerships to all. If they fail to reach a decision soon the government will be in breach of the Human Rights Act the court ruled.

Speaking outside the Royal Courts of Justice where the ruling was handed down, supporters of the Equal Civil Partnerships Campaign called on the government to announce a simple amendment to the Civil Partnership Act 2004 in the forthcoming Queen’s Speech so as to extend civil partnerships to all. They said there is clear demand for that to happen, it is simple to do, and it would be good for families and children.

The case was brought by Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan, a mixed-sex couple from London who want to form a civil partnership.

Ms Steinfeld said:

“We are pleased that today’s ruling has shown that the government must act very soon to end this unfair situation. All three judges agreed that we’re being treated differently because of our sexual orientation, and that this impacts our private and family life. All three rejected the argument that we could ‘just get married.’ All three emphasized that the government cannot maintain the status quo for much longer – they are on borrowed time. Lady Justice Arden accepted our case on almost every point. She stated: “My overall conclusion: the appellants are right.” We lost on a technicality – that the government should be allowed a little more time to make a decision. So there’s everything to fight for, and much in the ruling that gives us reason to be positive and keep going.”

Mr Keidan said:

“The Court of Appeal has made it clear the status quo cannot continue. The government should now recognize the benefits of opening civil partnerships to mixed-sex couples. The measure is fair, popular, good for families and children, and long overdue. They have everything to gain.”

Charles and Rebecca originally applied for notice to form a civil partnership in 2014, but were turned away by the registrars. They took their case to the High Court in January 2015, but the judge then ruled that the ban on mixed-sex civil partnerships was not unlawful. The judges in Charles and Rebecca’s appeal were clear that the current unequal access to civil partnerships cannot continue much longer.

In their ruling, Lord Justice Beatson said: “I do not consider that the discrimination in the status quo can be maintained for long.” Lord Justice Briggs said. “‘I can well understand the frustration which must be felt by the Appellants and those couples who share their view about marriage, about what they regard as the Government’s slow progress on this issue. Some couples in their position may suffer serious fiscal disadvantage if, for example, one of them dies before they can form a civil partnership.’

The couple’s solicitor, Louise Whitfield from Deighton Pierce Glynn, said:

“It is deeply disappointing that my clients lost their appeal by such a narrow margin on such an important issue, particularly when all three judges readily accepted that there had been a potential violation of their human rights. All three also agreed that the time available to the Government to address the obvious discrimination Charles and Rebecca face is limited. Lady Justice Arden accepted that time had already run out, whilst her fellow judges were unfortunately prepared to allow the Government a little more time, and thus the appeal was lost on this issue alone. It is therefore clear that the Government must act quickly in any event to deal with the discrimination which the court as a whole recognised could not continue indefinitely and which they agreed is ultimately unsustainable. We are therefore awaiting an urgent response from the Secretary of State as to her position in response to the judgment, whilst preparing an immediate application for permission to appeal to the Supreme Court.”

Since Charles and Rebecca first appeared in court over 72,000 people have signed a Change.org petition calling for civil partnerships to be open to all. The Equal Civil Partnerships Campaign that was set up to support them has attracted the backing of MPs, MEPs, and Assembly Members from all parties, as well as from campaigners like Caroline Criado-Perez, Owen Jones, and Peter Tatchell, and organisations including Liberty and the Women’s Budget Group.

One supporter of the campaign is the education campaigner and journalist Fiona Millar. Ms Millar said:

“I am one of thousands and thousands of people in the UK in a mixed-sex relationship who will now be looking at the government and waiting for them to close the civil partnerships loophole by making them available to all. In 2004 the Labour government, albeit unwittingly, created a new, positive institution with a history, life, and future of its own. Now that that institution exists, offering a progressive and new way for couples to gain legal recognition of their relationship, it is only right and fair that that institution be available to all. I hope the government acts soon.”

The Equal Civil Partnerships Campaign believes that they stand a good chance of seeing swift action from the government because their cause now has cross-party support. MPs from nearly every major party in Parliament, including the Conservative Party, back their campaign. Conservative MP Tim Loughton recently introduced a Private Members’ Bill to give mixed-sex couples the right to a civil partnership, which has received cross-party backing.

Mr Loughton said:

“The fact that my Bill for mixed-sex civil partnerships received cross-party backing means the government has no excuse for delaying the passage of this important and positive change. I look forward to the government bringing forward a Bill to the House, one that I know colleagues in my party and across the House will support.”

Matt Hawkins, Campaign Manager of the Equal Civil Partnerships Campaign, said:

“Regardless of the decision made in court today this campaign has generated an incredible momentum of its own. Pursuing our legal case has always been one part of a much broader campaign and the number of people backing this cause continues to rise week on week. It’s incredible to be part of a cause that has such a broad tent of support – from MPs uniting across the political divide to organisations like Liberty and TUC Women to campaigners such as Peter Tatchell and Owen Jones. We thank all of them for taking us to this point and urge the government to recognise the force behind our cause, the desire for change, and the simplicity involved in making it happen.”

Veteran human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said:

“This is a defeat for love and equality. It will be a huge disappointment to the thousands of heterosexual couples who would like to have a civil partnership. The court has rejected the principle that in a democratic society everyone should be equal before the law. It says that different-sex couples are not entitled to the same choices as same-sex ones. It cannot be right that lesbian and gay couples have two options, civil partnership and civil marriage; whereas opposite-sex partners have only one option, marriage. This legal case was always about the simple quest to end discrimination and ensure equality for all. I hope Charles and Rebecca will appeal this judgement and that justice will prevail in the end.”

 

 

February 17, 2017

Date for civil partnerships verdict announced

The verdict of the Court of Appeal on the legality of the current ban on mixed-sex civil partnerships will be handed down on Tuesday 21st February at 10.20AM.

A public gathering in support of mixed-sex civil partnerships will take place outside the Royal Courts of Justice from 9.45AM on the day of the judgement.

Responding to the announcement of the date,

Rebecca Steinfeld said:

“When we started our legal battle for the right to form a civil partnership three years ago we could never have envisaged the incredible levels of support that would follow. Over 72,000 people have signed our petition on Change.org calling on the government to open civil partnerships to all. We have received support from nearly every major political party. It really is remarkable but it just speaks to the fact that opening civil partnerships is popular, fair and would be good for families and children. Whatever happens on Tuesday, the campaign has showed why we need mixed-sex civil partnerships. We hope that the government will take heed and act soon to open civil partnerships to all.”

Charles Keidan said:

“We are very hopeful about Tuesday’s judgement. We believe we have not only the law but basic fairness on our side. Whatever happens on Tuesday, we will be looking to the government to open civil partnerships to all couples at the earliest opportunity. By doing so, they will be listening to the thousands of people who want to see mixed-sex civil partnerships open to all. This is the simple, fair and popular thing to do.”

February 9, 2017

Equal Civil Partnerships respond to Supreme Court ruling on survivor’s pensions

Responding to the judgement by the Supreme Court that Denise Brewster should be allowed access to her late-partner’s pension though the two were not married, Matt Hawkins, Campaign Manager for the Equal Civil Partnerships Campaign said:

“Firstly our thoughts and best wishes must go to Denise. We hope that today’s ruling will lay down a marker that means no one else ever has to go through eight years of court proceedings and emotional turmoil to secure their rights to the safety net and inheritance of their partner, should their partner sadly pass away without them being married.

“And looking to the future there is a very simple thing that the government can do to help minimise the chances of that turmoil being inflicted on anyone else: giving mixed-sex couples the right to a civil partnership. It’s an easy change in the law that would give millions of couples a new option and way to get legal and financial protection without some of the baggage and complexities associated with marriage. Denise has done an incredible thing not only in committing to this fight but in raising awareness of the lack of security for unmarried cohabiting mixed-sex couples – something we hope will give a big boost to our campaign for mixed-sex civil partnerships.”

February 2, 2017

Mayor Sadiq Khan pledges fight for mixed-sex civil partnerships

The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has pledged to make representations to the government about the need to extend civil partnerships to mixed-sex couples.

Khan says that should Charles Keidan and Rebecca Steinfeld lose their appeal for the right to a civil partnership at the High Court he will take the fight forwards by speaking to the government.

This pledge was made in a letter sent to Green Party Member of the London Assembly Caroline Russell. Last November Russell proposed a motion, along with Liberal Democrat Caroline Pidgeon, calling on the London Assembly to back the aims of the campaign for equal civil partnerships. The motion was passed unanimously.

In his letter, the Mayor says:

“I recognise that there are many reasons why some people might not want to enter into a traditional marriage and agree that everyone should have the right to express their relationship in a loving union that works for them. I will express my support for the introduction of Equal Civil Partnerships to the government, should the Court of Appeal reject [the] couple’s application to form a civil partnership. All couples, regardless of sexual orientation, should be equal before the law.”

The Equal Civil Partnerships will be writing to Mr Khan to thank him for his support and to request a meeting to discuss how together the campaign can be taken forwards.

 

January 26, 2017

Labour MPs offer support to government on mixed-sex civil partnerships

Labour will back the government if it introduces a Bill for mixed-sex civil partnerships say twenty-five of their MPs.

Currently civil partnerships are only available to same-sex couples. But in a letter sent today to the Minister for Women and Equalities Justine Greening Labour MPs say that should the government introduce a Bill to extend civil partnerships to mixed-sex civil partnerships it would be “welcomed and supported”.

Signatories to the letter include Chris Bryant, Liz Kendall, and the Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities Sarah Champion.

The Equal Civil Partnerships Campaign has described the intervention as “significant” because they say it shows that the idea of extending civil partnerships is one that unites Britain’s political parties. It also says that it makes it “tantalisingly possible” that civil partnerships could be extended soon.

In their letter to the Minister the Labour twenty-five explain why they are backing mixed-sex civil partnerships. They say:

“Extending civil partnerships to mixed-sex couples is about extending choice, offering legal protection to couples who do not feel that marriage is right for them, and about fairness. These are universal principles.”

They go on to say that such universal principles demand that parties work together:

“At a time of great political flux, it is important that MPs find common cause and work together to define the vision of a post-Brexit Britain. We want that Britain to be tolerant, enterprising, and forward-looking and we are sure you do too. Allowing mixed-sex couples the right to a civil partnership would be one piece of that jigsaw.”

The letter was coordinated and sent by Labour MP for Hammersmith Andy Slaughter. Mr Slaughter said:

“It’s not always the case that parties in parliament find common cause but MPs across the House are agreed that civil partnerships should be extended to mixed-sex couples. Doing so would extend choice and give more couples the opportunity to gain financial protection in a way that works for them. We have sent our letter today to leave the government in no doubt that if it were to introduce a Bill for mixed-sex civil partnerships, they should expect support from their colleagues on the Labour benches.”

Conservative MP Tim Loughton has long campaigned for civil partnerships to be made available to all. On Friday 13th January he presented a Private Members’ Bill to parliament to extend civil partnerships to all couples but the Bill was timed-out before a vote could be taken.

Mr Loughton responded to the Labour letter:

“I welcome the Labour Party’s support for my Private Member’s Bill and indeed it has been Labour Party policy previously. When there are further opportunities for debate on my Bill – or more likely adding amendments to other legislation – I look forward to welcoming Labour and other cross-party consensus to rally behind this long overdue equality reform.”

Matt Hawkins, Campaign Manager for the Equal Civil Partnerships Campaign said:

“This is a significant and very welcome intervention from this group of Labour MPs. Generally getting Bills through parliament relies on two things: public support and political support. Having handed in a petition of over 71,000 signatures calling for mixed-sex civil partnerships to Ms Greening last December she should be in no doubt that both of those boxes are ticked now a strong group of Labour MPs have gone on record in offering their support to the government on this issue. It’s brought us tantalisingly close to the result that so many mixed-sex couples want: the right to choose how they get legal protection for their relationship.”

A full copy of the letter:

To Ms Greening,

We the undersigned Labour Party Members of Parliament are writing to urge you to extend civil partnerships to different-sex couples.

It is clear to us that the current inequality that exists between mixed-sex and same-sex couples with regards their access to civil partnerships cannot continue indefinitely. 71,000 people have signed a petition asking that civil partnerships be made available to all; mixed-sex couples have travelled from the UK to the Isle of Man just to get a civil partnership; one couple has steadfastly pursued a court case seeking to overturn the ban on mixed-sex civil partnerships. This momentum shows no sign of abating.

Extending civil partnerships to mixed-sex couples is about extending choice, offering legal protection to couples who do not feel that marriage is right for them, and about fairness. These are universal principles.

A recent Private Members Bill presented by Tim Loughton MP did not make it to Committee Stage. Nonetheless, it gained cross-party backing, evidence that if a similar Bill were brought to Parliament by your Department it would be welcomed and supported.

At a time of great political flux, it is important that MPs find common cause and work together to define the vision of a post-Brexit Britain. We want that Britain to be tolerant, enterprising, and forward-looking and we are sure you do too. Allowing mixed-sex couples the right to a civil partnership would be one piece of that jigsaw.

With kind regards,

Andy Slaughter
Liz Kendall
Catherine West
Cat Smith
Chris Bryant
Yvonne Fovargue
Alex Cunningham
Stephen Twigg
Kerry McCarthy
Michael Gapes
Rob Marris
Jeff Smith
Jim Dowd
Roger Godsiff
Rupa Huq
Kate Green
Sarah Champion
Gavin Shuker
Angela Eagle
Heidi Alexander
Liz McInnes
Valerie Vaz
Carolyn Harris
Kelvin Hopkins
Paul Blomfield

January 13, 2017

Our response to parliamentary debate on mixed-sex civil partnerships

The Bill to extend civil partnerships to mixed-sex couples was debated in parliament today (Friday 13th January) but ran out of time before a vote could be taken. In response to the debate Equal Civil Partnerships Campaign Manager Matt Hawkins said:

“In today’s debate MPs from across the political divide spoke passionately – and almost unanimously – in favour of giving mixed-sex couples the right to get a civil partnership. MPs on all sides were in agreement that is the right, popular, and positive thing to do. Change will come – no matter how many minor administrative obstacles the government chooses to raise in objection: couples who have waited years for legal and protection financial protection are unlikely to be swayed by an argument about the number of textual amendments law makers will need to make just to give them the rights they seek and deserve. With over 71000 signatories on our petition for equal civil partnerships and MPs from every party backing our cause, we are confident that we will win through.”

The Bill will return to parliament on 24th March.

January 12, 2017

Statement from ECP Campaign in advance of parliamentary debate on mixed-sex civil partnerships

In advance of Friday’s debate in the House of Commons on Tim Loughton MP’s Private Members’ Bill to extend civil partnerships to mixed-sex couples, Equal Civil Partnerships Campaign Manager Matt Hawkins said:

“This Bill to give mixed-sex couples the right to get a civil partnership has achieved something pretty special – it has the enthusiastic support of MPs from nearly every major political party. Surely now it is only a matter of time before the government listens to the demands of MPs, including MPs in their own party, and the constituents they are representing and make civil partnerships available to all. Such a change simply extends choice and the right to financial and legal protection for couples and families. If it doesn’t happen with Tim’s Bill then Friday’s debate will still have been a major milestone on the road to equal civil partnerships.”

January 5, 2017

MPs asked to support civil partnerships Bill

On January 13th MPs have the chance to vote for a Bill to extend civil partnerships to mixed-sex couples.

The Bill itself is a Private Members’ Bill brought to parliament by the Conservative MP Tim Loughton. Unusually for a Private Members’ Bill it has cross-party support: Labour, Liberal Democrat, Green, and SDLP MPs have all sponsored Loughton’s Bill.

Private Members’ Bills do not normally pass into legislation. However, they do help to raise an issue up the agenda. The Equal Civil Partnerships Campaign hopes that if enough MPs turn out to support Loughton’s Bill we will be able to show the government the strength of support behind allowing mixed-sex civil partnerships. Supporters of equal civil partnerships can, in just a few clicks, email their MP asking them to attend the debate on the 13th.

November 26, 2016

A new and powerful way to create change…

The Equal Civil Partnerships Campaign is using a new website platform for campaigns called PostBug. This  allows you to send signed paper letters through the post to people in power at the click of a button.

We know that emails to MPs and Ministers have an impact but a physical letter can make even more of an impression. That’s why we have created this tool for our supporters – to give them a chance to send a powerful message to the Minister for Women and Equalities about why they want to see civil partnerships extended to mixed-gender couples.

To send you letter, simply click on this link