News that a heterosexual couple have won a lengthy legal bid for the right to have a civil partnership instead of a marriage could transform many people’s lives.
The recent Supreme Court ruling in favour of London couple, Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan cannot be underestimated in its importance.
The couple had battled for over four years with the government before the Supreme Court said the Civil Partnership Act 2004, which only applies to same-sex couples, is incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.
At a time when Civil Partnerships are in decline following the legalisation of same sex marriage, this is a move which could open up a new legal channel of protection for those wishing to legally be known as life partners without getting married.
What is worth remembering though, in light of the judgement, which has made big news across the mainstream media, is it does not oblige the government to change the law. However, it does make it more likely that they will now act.
As things stand, in a civil partnership, a couple is entitled to the same legal treatment in terms of inheritance, tax, pensions and next-of-kin arrangements as if they were married.
After the victory, Mr Keidan had said that with well over 3m cohabiting couples in the UK, lack of rights was an issue.
The couple, who have been together for eight years and have two children, said the “legacy of marriage,” which “treated women as property for centuries” was not an option for them.
They had said they want to raise their children as equal partners and feel that a civil partnership – a modern, symmetrical institution – sets the best example for them.
For more than four years, since March 2014, same sex-couples can choose whether to enter a civil partnership or to marry, but this has not been possible for mixed-sex couples, which led the couple to argue that the law was discriminatory.
It is a battle, which has gained much publicity and this ruling overturns a previous judgement made by the Court of Appeal, in Feb 2017, which rejected the couple’s argument.
The future actions of the government will now be under great scrutiny as the whole subject of how a man and a woman reside legally is open to a possible new avenue.