A campaign to overturn a ban on heterosexual couples being allowed to enter into civil partnerships is thought to have gained considerable ground, despite a recent narrow defeat at the Court of Appeal in January.

Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan have campaigned for three years to gain legal recognition for their seven-year relationship, gaining 72,000 signatures on an accompanying petition. Two of the three judges presiding over the case ruled that the Government should be allowed more time to review the law regarding civil partnerships, while the third judge felt that the Government should change the law immediately.

The defeated couple have previously claimed that the institute of marriage is “sexist” and “patriarchal” and they now intend to take their case to the Supreme Court.

Although same-sex couples are covered by the Civil Partnerships Act 2004, the couple’s argument is that the legal recognition offered by civil partnerships should be available to all. Same-sex marriage was legalised in 2013, so it is felt to be inconsistent that civil partnerships have not been extended to all couples.

Not everybody wants the ‘occasion’ or conventions of a marriage and wish to have the legal side separated from the ceremony, which a civil partnership allows them to do. A civil partnership is effectively the signing of a document in a civil process, rather than what many see as an outdated tradition of marriage, following religious conventions that they don’t believe in.

An increasing argument is that there is also a lack of legal rights for co-habiting couples (the main advantage for many seeking a civil partnership) and is also something of an anomaly, given that co-habiting couples are the fastest-growing household type in the UK.

It has been suggested that denying heterosexual couples the rights to a civil partnership is discriminatory under the Civil Partnerships Act 2004. The Act offers many of the same legal protections as a marriage, in respect of parental responsibility, child maintenance, inheritance tax, and social security. However, if a heterosexual couple remain only co-habiting, rather than gaining legal recognition for their relationship, there are issues relating to access to money if one partner dies.

There is a hope that a landmark ruling might not be far away as Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan continue their fight for what they claim is a popular and fair cause. With the Government allowing more time to review the law, there will be increasing pressure to ensure that they use that time wisely.

At Ison Harrison, our Private Family law department advise clients on all aspects of cohabitation.

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