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August 25, 2016

Pressure builds in Scotland for equal civil partnerships

Following the introduction of civil partnerships for difference sex couples in Scotland we were delighted to receive the support of both the Humanist Society Scotland and the Scotland-based Equality Network. The Humanist Society has approximately 7000 members whilst the Equality Network is one of the leading LGBTIQ campaign organisations in Scotland. Gaining their support helps us to build the case for the introduction of equal civil partnerships across Britain.

Read more about their support here and here.

August 4, 2016

Isle of Man adds to pressure on British government

The major boost to our campaign granted by the decision in the Isle of Man to give different sex couples the right to a civil partnership continues to be felt.

This week the Daily Telegraph published an excellent feature on the Isle of Man’s decision, assessing whether British couples will be able to get a civil partnership on the island and have it recognised in Britain. The fact that they probably will not only adds to the pressure on the British government who will be seen as denying legally obtained rights of different sex couples.

The article states:

“New legislation which has just come into force on the Island [Isle of Man] – a crown dependency separate from but closely tied to the UK – will create new pressure in mainland Britain for straight couples to be allowed to form legally recognised partnerships.

“But it also creates a new legal grey area in other parts of Britain, with uncertainty over how opposite sex couples in civil partnerships under Manx law will be recognised, if at all.”

Our campaign will be continuing to promote the precedence set by the Isle of Man as yet further evidence that Britain needs to catch up and extend civil partnerships to all couples.

 

July 29, 2016

Equal Civil Partnerships launches fundraising campaign

We’ve reached a moment of real opportunity for the Equal Civil Partnerships campaign. We have a new prime minister and Minister for Equalities in place. We’ve employed a new campaign manager. Charles and Rebecca’s court case is coming up this November. And the Isle of Man has just introduced civil partnerships for different sex couples.

We need to seize this opportunity.

That’s why we’ve launched our first ever major campaign fundraising drive. Thanks to the generous donations of members of the public the legal case has already been funded but now we need your support to help us run our political campaign. Because, even if the court decides in our favour this November, we will need the support of politicians to ensure that the law gets changed.

Your donations will help us run our campaign, produce materials designed to convince MPs of our cause, and pay for the drafting of the legislation we want to introduce.

Please head to our fundraising page and give what you can.

July 21, 2016

Welcome to our new campaign manager!

We want to give a warm welcome to our new campaign manager Matt Hawkins who has joined the team here at Equal Civil Partnerships.

Matt Hawkins new Campaign Manager

Matt Hawkins new Campaign Manager

Matt will be helping us over the coming months as we ramp up our parliamentary campaign, engage more MPs, increase the publicity of our campaign, and prepare for Charles and Rebecca’s court case in November.

Matt has previously worked for a number of campaigns including Gingerbread, Carers Trust, and Climate Week. He will be working part-time with us, working for a campaign to ban nuclear weapons during the other half of his week. In his spare time Matt enjoys playing piano and looking after his two rebellious house rabbits.

If you want to contact Matt you can do so on hello@equalcivilpartnerships.org.uk

July 21, 2016

Equal Civil Partnerships for different-sex couples become law in the Isle of Man

Different sex couples who have lived on the Isle of Man for two weeks or more will now be able to get a civil partnership.

The extension of this right to different sex couples was passed by the Isle of Man parliament in April this year and officially became law this week.

It now means that the British government, by denying civil partnerships to different-sex couples, becomes increasingly isolated in Western Europe. France, Portugal, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and many more countries already allow both same-sex and different-sex couples to get civil unions.

The Isle of Man parliament was clearly very proud of the leadership the island is showing. Chief Minister Alan Bell said:

“Recognition of marriage for same-sex couples in Manx law is a truly historic moment, showing just how far the Island has travelled over the past 30 years.

“It sends out a clear message that the Isle of Man today is a modern, open and inclusive society where equal rights are respected. I believe that the values of fairness and tolerance reflected in this legislation are shared by the overwhelming majority of our population.”

The Equal Civil Partnerships campaign hopes to take the enthusiasm and energy shown in the Isle of Man for this cause and translate it into action in the rest of Britain.

June 11, 2016

Charles Keidan and Rebecca Steinfeld get a date for their appeal

The challenge against the ban on opposite-sex couples’ access to civil partnerships will be heard in the Court of Appeal on 2nd and 3rd November 2016. Please put the date in your diaries!

You may recall that the High Court judgment earlier this year said that the ban was lawful. However, the same judge also said that that many people would regard the situation as unfair and that, as the case “raises issues of wider public importance,” it deserves scrutiny by a higher court so the fight for equal civil partnerships continues.

You can continue to support this case by contributing to our legal fund here. Our costs are now more manageable thanks to all your support, as well as the commitment of our legal team. However, we still need to raise another £2,000 to cover our costs up to and including the appeal hearing, so please give whatever you can.

You can also come together with with thousands of others who wish to see civil partnerships available to all by joining the campaign here, by liking our Facebook page here and by following us on Twitter here with the hashtags #equalcivilpartnerships and #equallove. That way you will be the first to hear our news and updates.

Thank you for your on-going support and encouragement.

May 16, 2016

Are you equal to this job?

The Campaign for Equal Civil Partnerships is recruiting a new part-time campaign manager. We would very much like to hear from you if you think you have the right skills and experience and a commitment to our cause. Please read on…..

Position: Part-time campaign manager for the Equal Civil Partnerships Campaign

Organisation: The Equal Civil Partnerships Campaign

Terms: Initial six-week period from June 2016 (possibly longer)

Location: Working from home or flexibly

Pay: £20 per hour for 20-hour week (on a days worked basis)= £400 per week

The campaign

Did you know that opposite-sex couples in the UK are not currently allowed to be in a civil partnership? The campaign for Equal Civil Partnerships was established a year ago to address this obvious inequality.

At its centre is the case of Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan, a London couple who are at the appeal stage in a judicial review challenge to the UK Government over the issue in the High Court. The next court hearing is expected this summer.

A highly effective part-time campaign manager, Ava Lee, has been leading this campaign for the last year, working to a steering group*. Ava now has a full time job elsewhere so we are looking for a suitable replacement to continue the process of:

  • Influencing parliamentarians and ministers to secure a change in UK law
  • Building public support for equal civil partnerships via social and print media
  • Exploiting campaigning opportunities presented by the legal challenge

The job

We now have a grant from the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust to continue our campaigning work inside and outside parliament. The priority in the next few months will be to lobby MPs, peers and ministers, seek opportunities to amend government legislation and deepen our work to build a parliamentary majority. The job might be suitable for someone who wants to work part-time and flexibly. The successful candidate will:

  • Identify and engage influential decision makers, including MPs, civil servants, policy makers and members of civil society and seek opportunities for legislative change
  • Build on existing relationships with influential journalists and forge new relationships to reach bigger audiences and broaden the campaign’s supporter base
  • Research, write, distribute and monitor press releases, announcements and developments relevant to civil partnership and marriage equality
  • Work closely with the steering group, though much of the work will be unsupervised
  • Manage the website and social media including Facebook, Twitter as well as assist with copy for the 70,000 strong petition on Change.org
  • Deal with calls, emails, admin, correspondence and media enquiries as well as organising steering group meetings, and taking minutes
  • Update, engage and grow the supporter base, and create opportunities to amplify the campaign through targeted supporter actions
  • Report back to JRRT on progress of the Equal Civil Partnerships campaign against agreed objectives and assist with future fund raising strategy

A series of achievable KPIs will be set to bring focus to the tasks.

 The person

  • Should have empathy with the aims and aspirations of the Equal Civil Partnerships campaign
  • Be self-motivated with proven ability to run social campaigns and related projects.
  • Be motivated and able to effect change with limited resources and support
  • Have some experience of most, or all, of the following; campaigning, not for profit organisations, the law, politics, parliament, current affairs and human rights

This is an ideal opportunity for a committed and energetic person to make a mark in the world of politics, law and campaigning and help change British law.

Apply in confidence by 31 May 2016 to equalcivilpartnerships@gmail.com, enclosing a brief CV and stating in 250 words examples of activity you would organise to help encourage MPs to support our campaign.

*STEERING GROUP MEMBERSHIP

  • Charles Keidan, Acting Editor, Alliance Philanthropy magazine
  • Martin Loat, CEO, Propeller PR
  • Fiona Millar, Education Campaigner and Journalist
  • Gemma Mortensen, Chief Global Officer of Change.org
  • Elsie Owusu, Architect
  • Dr Rebecca Steinfeld, Political Scientist and BBC New Generation Thinker
  • Peter Tatchell, Human Rights Campaigner
  • Professor Robert Wintemute, Professor of Human Rights Law, King’s College London
April 28, 2016

Equal Civil Partnerships legalised in the Isle of Man

The campaign for Equal Civil Partnerships is pleased to share with you the good news that both same-sex marriage and opposite-sex civil partnership are now legal on the Isle of Man.

The Marriage and Civil Partnership (Amendment) Bill passed its third reading in the Legislative Council on 27th April 2016, with six votes for and three against. This is great news for equal marriage, equal civil partnerships and equal love. We hope that the example set by the Isle of Man will soon be followed in Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

For more information, here is a link to a downloadable PDF of the Isle of Man’s Marriage and Civil Partnership (Amendment) Bill 2016. The key section is Schedule 3 “Consequential Amendments to Other Acts,” in which Paragraph 5 of the Civil Partnership Act 2011 is amended to omit “of the same sex,” meaning that a civil partnership is no longer restricted to only two people of the same sex.

The campaign for Equal Civil Partnerships has been asked whether those wanting to enter into a civil partnership could travel to the Isle of Man to form one, and then have it recognised here in England and Wales.

There are two parts to the answer:

1) Could any of us in England and Wales travel to the Isle of Man to form a civil partnership? The answer seems to be YES: According to the Isle of Man’s Civil Partnership Act 2011, one is required to reside in the Isle of Man for 7 days before giving notice of intent to form a civil partnership, and then spend a further 7 days waiting after giving notice. So one couldn’t fly there and back in the same day, but it might be possible (unless the Isle of Man authorities rejected a hotel or B&B as a residence).

See Isle of Man, CPA 2011, Part 2, Sections 9 and 12 here.

2) Would such a civil partnership be recognised in England and Wales? The answer seems to be NO: The view from our legal adviser is that different-sex civil partnerships from British territories (like the Isle of Man and Gibraltar) will most likely NOT be recognised in England and Wales, any more than different-sex CPs from the Netherlands, New Zealand, Malta, Estonia, Quebec, Chile, South Africa, etc. The Civil Partnership Act 2004 states “Two people are not to be treated as having formed a civil partnership as a result of having registered an overseas relationship if, at the critical time, they were not of the same sex under United Kingdom law.”

See UK, CPA 2004, Part 5 “Civil partnership formed or dissolved abroad,” Chapter 2, 216 (1)

So don’t go rushing off to the Isle of Man just yet!

We will of course let you know if we have any further news on this issue… Watch this space.

March 29, 2016

Charles Keidan and Rebecca Steinfeld are appealing against the decision in their Judicial Review case

We’re delighted to share the news that Charles and Rebecca are appealing against the decision in their Judicial Review case and have now lodged their appeal. Please read their statement here.

Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London

Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London

January 29, 2016

High Court rules civil partnership discrimination is justified while MPs call on the government to open civil partnerships to all

High Court rules civil partnership discrimination is justified while MPs call on the government to open civil partnerships to all

10.30am, Friday 29th January 2016

A High Court judge, Mrs Justice Andrews DBE, rules today that the government’s discrimination against opposite-sex couples’ access to civil partnerships is justified, while MPs from across the political spectrum call for civil partnerships to be extended to opposite-sex couples. Currently civil partnerships are only open to same-sex couples.

What? On 19th and 20th January 2016, Mrs Justice Andrews DBE heard a Judicial Review claim in the High Court that was brought by Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan. They argued that the Civil Partnership Act 2004, which restricts civil partnerships to same-sex couples, is incompatible with Article 14 (read with Article 8) of the European Convention on Human Rights, which states that everyone should be treated equally by law, regardless of sex or sexual orientation. Today, the judge ruled that the difference in treatment does not fall within the ambit of Article 8, read together with Article 14, but even if it did then maintaining that difference is justified.

However, Mrs Justice Andrews also acknowledged that there will be many people who sympathise with the Claimants’ point of view “that it is unfair that a route to state recognition of their relationship which is open to a same-sex couple…remains unavailable to them because they are heterosexual.”

She also noted that “Just as the UK was under no obligation to extend marriage to same-sex couples, it has never been under an obligation to extend civil partnership to heterosexual couples.” And she said, “The denial of a further means of formal recognition which is open to same-sex couples, does not amount to unlawful state interference with the Claimants’ right to family life or private life, any more than the denial of marriage to same-sex couples did prior to the enactment of the 2013 Act.” In other words, according to the judge, same-sex couples’ exclusion from marriage before 2013 was lawful just as opposite-sex couples’ exclusion from civil partnership is today in 2016.

Also today, a Ten Minute Rule Bill (a type of Private Member’s Bill) calling for a minor amendment to the Civil Partnership Act to remove the clause limiting civil partnerships to same-sex couples has its second reading in the House of Commons.

Where? The High Court and the House of Commons.

Who?  New parents Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan brought the case. The couple are represented by solicitor Louise Whitfield of law firm Deighton Pierce Glynn, and Karon Monaghan QC of Matrix Chambers.

Former Children’s Minister, Tim Loughton MP, has a Ten Minute Rule Bill receiving its second reading today. The Bill is backed by a large number of MPs, (including Caroline Lucas, Andy Slaughter and Stephen Twigg), as well as lawyers and academics alongside over 36,000 supporters, all of whom are calling on the government to extend civil partnerships to all couples.

Rebecca Steinfeld said:

“We made this claim because the UK Government is barring us, and many thousands of opposite-sex couples like us, from the choice of forming a civil partnership, and we want this to change. Personally, we wish to form a civil partnership because that captures the essence of our relationship and values. Civil partnerships are a modern social institution conferring almost identical legal rights and responsibilities as marriage, but without its history and social expectations. We don’t think there is sufficient justification for stopping us or other opposite-sex couples from forming civil partnerships. Unfortunately, the judge has concluded otherwise. We are seeking permission to appeal her decision on behalf of ourselves and the more than 36,000 people who signed our petition on Change.org calling for civil partnership equality.”

Charles Keidan said:

We believe that opening civil partnerships to opposite-sex couples would complete the circle of full relationship equality that began with the hard-won victory for same-sex marriage.  We campaigned for equal marriage and believe that the significance and symbolism of opening marriage to same-sex couples cannot be overstated. Regrettably, the courts have so far been unable to compel the government to open civil partnerships to all, so it’s now time for Parliament to demonstrate its commitment to creating a level playing field for all its citizens by extending civil partnerships to same-sex and opposite-sex couples alike.”

Louise Whitfield of Deighton Pierce Glynn, the solicitor representing Charles and Rebecca, said:

“It is clear that there is unjustified discrimination here in what the judge acknowledged was an important case, but she has set the bar too high in terms of whether the issue falls within the ambit of Article 8, the right to protection of private and family life. Moreover, the Government’s arguments to justify that discrimination on the basis of cost are fundamentally flawed, as this cannot be a “legitimate aim” in these circumstances.  We are therefore advising our clients on the matter of an appeal.”

Robert Wintemute, Professor of Human Rights Law at King’s College London, who has advised the couple, said:

“It is very disappointing that the High Court was not persuaded to make a declaration of incompatibility, despite the obvious sexual orientation discrimination in the Civil Partnership Act 2004.  Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan will now have to consider whether to take their case to the England and Wales Court of Appeal, or the European Court of Human Rights.”

Tim Loughton (Conservative MP for Worthing East and Shoreham) said:

“This is not the result we were hoping for, but it is by no means the end of the fight. I am sure Charles and Rebecca will continue to campaign for this glaring inequality in the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Act 2013 to be corrected. My Private Members’ Bill is yet to receive its Second Reading, so there is still opportunity to bring this issue to the attention of MPs, ministers and the wider public and marshal the growing support. This is not an issue that is going to go away”.

Peter Tatchell, Human Rights Campaigner, 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 opposite-sex couples are not entitled to the same choices as same-sex ones. It cannot be right that same-sex couples have two options, civil partnerships and civil marriages; 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 and that justice will prevail in the end.”

Ava Lee, Campaign Manager of the Equal Civil Partnership campaign, said:

“We are disappointed by the judgment from the High Court today, however our campaign for equal civil partnerships will continue. While the judge found that the Civil Partnership Act is not incompatible with equality legislation, her judgment does not change the fact that there are thousands of couples around the country who do not want to get married but are deeply concerned about the precarious legal and financial position that this decision leaves them in. Civil partnerships are an institution that already exists, and offer the same legal protections afforded to married couples to those couples who feel that marriage is not for them. 

Over 36,000 people have written to the Minister for Women and Equalities, asking her to open up civil partnerships. We hope that following the judicial review, the government will reconsider its position on civil partnerships and offer the 3 million cohabiting couples in the UK an additional option for celebrating and cementing their relationships, and provide their 1.9 million dependent children with the same level of security offered to the children of married parents.”

The Campaign for Equal Civil Partnerships was launched by members of the public adversely affected by the current legislation. For more information, please visit equalcivilpartnerships.org.uk or email media@equalcivilpartnerships.org.uk to arrange interviews with couples calling for equal civil partnerships.